According to the Louisiana Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, 20 percent of school-aged children experience diagnosable mental health problems, yet of these children, 70 percent never receive care. In fact, of the 110,000 children identified as having a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder in Louisiana, only seven percent were given treatment. The doctors, psychologists, social workers and staff at Mercy Family Center are working to change these statistics and to provide mental health support for all children in Louisiana. Since they began in 1992, Mercy Family Center has served thousands of children, and last year alone they treated over 2,700 patients.
Mercy Family Center seeks to provide innovative mental health services to children, adolescents and their families with particular concern for the economically poor.
Making mental health accessible, regardless of cost, is primary to their purpose.
“Economically, so many people haven’t been able to afford the services for mental health,” says Stephen Engro, Director of Development at Mercy Family Center. “We take that obstacle away.” Engro says that Post-Katrina the services of Mercy Family Center have become especially necessary as health professionals have fled the New Orleans area and emotional tensions from the hurricane have created increased stress levels and exacerbated many pre-existing conditions.
Sister Sarah Ducey, RSM, helped to found the Mercy Family Center with a budget of $60,000 and a staff of three. Mercy Family center now has three branches and a staff that includes three psychiatrists, 11 psychologists, including play therapists and art therapists, and two full-time social workers. Mercy Family Center is recognized as the premier provider of children’s mental health services in the greater New Orleans area. Since fiscal year 2006-’07, they have delivered nearly $400,000 in “Mercy Care” (charity care) services and are positioned as a major factor in the post-Katrina recovery of New Orleans though Project Fleur-de-lis.
Project Fleur-de-lis is a collaborative endeavor between Mercy Family Center and area schools. Designed by Douglas W. Walker, Ph.D. of Mercy Family Center as an intermediate and long-term school-based mental health service model for children who have been exposed to traumatic events as a result of natural and man-made disasters, the objectives of the program are to provide early intervention, to establish a mechanism for identification of and services to children with counseling or mental health needs, and to provide a wide range of and increased access to mental healthcare for children and families.
Mercy Family Center has been expanding exponentially. The Center will soon add two psychiatrists to their staff, and additional positions will be added to meet the needs of the community. “We’ve grown in response to the tremendous need in the community,” Engro says. “We’re finding lots of kids that need help.”
Mercy Family center also hopes to add at least 10 additional schools a year to the Project Fleur-de-lis™. In addition to the diagnostic, therapeutic and pharmacological services, Mercy Family Center hopes to bring in a Pediatric Clinic so that body and mind can be treated holistically. “It’s an exciting time as we work toward helping to rebuild the healthcare infrastructure of our community,” Engro says.
To find out more about Mercy Family Center visit www.mercyfamilycenter.com
110 Veterans Memorial Blvd.
1445 West Causeway Approach
4001 General de Gaulle Drive