The work of the Northlake-Mandeville Rotary Club and District #6840 was featured in the February 2021 issue of the RAGMHI newsletter.  RAGMHI stands for Rotary Action Group on Mental Health Initiatives.  Other countries whose Rotary mental health projects were featured include India, New Zealand, Lithuania, England, and more.  The story focused on the club's recent tour of the new Crisis Receiving Center on the grounds of Safe Haven.
A Safe Haven for Those in Crisis
Jason A Dickson
Northlake-Mandeville Rotary Club 
Mandeville, Louisiana
21 February 2021

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of all when dealing with mental health crises is that there are few places that an individual or family can turn to and feel safe. Historically for many individuals in these situations, the only place they can go has been the hospitals, police detainment, or the coroner's office. (In Louisiana the coroner handles psychiatric commitments.)  I have personal experience with a family that had to choose from these limited options recently. Safe Haven, an ongoing regional project to expand recovery options for those with mental illness, recently added a 24-bed crisis receiving facility that helps reduce the feeling of crisis in an individual or family struggling to cope. As a Northlake-Mandeville Rotary club member in Mandeville, Louisiana, I was privileged to tour this facility before the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Mental health care is near and dear to the heart of our local Rotary and others in District 6840. 
I am proud to serve on the mental health committee of our local chapter. Under the leadership of Dr. Leanne Truehart, we at the Northlake-Mandeville Rotary Club mental health committee have actively supported this groundbreaking initiative. District 6840 has sponsored a playground on Safe Haven's campus and contributes to this space's maintenance. Jay Capouch serves as the head of the Rotary projects at Safe Haven  He is the liaison with the Parish in coordinating Rotary activities and projects at Safe Haven. Joining us on this tour were members from Rotary clubs from Covington and Slidell within district 6840 and our District Governor, Elizabeth Van Sant.  
This amazing facility is made possible through the vision of the late Pat Brister, former St. Tammany Parish President. "Moving forward with the Crisis Receiving Center is a major forward step in the progress of the Safe Haven initiative, but also a major forward step for behavioral health care in this region," said Pat Brister, St. Tammany Parish President. "We are looking forward to the start of this renovation to transform this property into a working facility that will ultimately shape the future of behavioral health care here in our community. We are investing in our future, because the physical and mental health of our residents — our neighbors, friends and family — is the cornerstone of our community."
 Safe Haven is, in fact, the legacy of Pat Brister. Thanks to Pat's vision and the hard work of many individuals led by Mary D. Burckell, Director of Safe Haven, the dream is becoming a reality. 
At the beginning of the tour, I was pleasantly surprised to see how clean and welcoming the entryways are. This facility includes a Percent for Art program featuring local artists. The art selected helps to provide a peaceful milieu for the guests who come to this facility.  The common areas are not only clean and modern but also inviting and spacious. Bob Mathews, a long-time Rotarian, shared his overall impression. "Safe Haven tells me that St.Tammany and the entire Northshore community understand that a successful future is at hand for all of us who are lucky enough to live here." This 24-bed facility opens to the public this month and provides a valuable resource for residents in need. 
Current Services at Safe Haven:
  • A state of the art Crisis Receiving center, opening soon
  • 28-day rehabilitation program for substance abuse 
  •  Residential programs and drop-in day center for people living with persistent mental illness
  •   Three alternative schools
  • Access to essential items for those in need
A safe place, with safe people who care for the people they serve aides in the holistic healing for individuals and families struggling to cope. We are very fortunate to have this facility in Southeastern Louisiana. The mission statement of Safe Haven says it all:
 "Safe Haven — a place where all people living with mental illness or substance use disorders, can come to be assessed, locate services, and ultimately receive the care they need based where they are within their behavioral health journey through a ‘single point of entry’ into the behavioral health continuum. Safe Haven will heal."