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Council Member Proposes Legislation to Prevent Placement of Mental Hospitals Near Schools

BATON ROUGE, La. — Council member Darryl Hurst is taking action to block the establishment of mental hospitals near schools in Baton Rouge following a controversial attempt last year.

Hurst's initiative comes after community uproar over a failed proposal to build a forensic psychiatric hospital adjacent to Forest Heights Academy, drawing opposition from hundreds of residents.

"We need to come together because if it could happen in our backyard, it can happen in yours," said Hurst, emphasizing the potential risks associated with such facilities. "A forensic psychiatric hospital simply says that it is people who display aggressive and dangerous behaviors that are mentally unstable to stay in trial."

Christopher Richard, a longstanding resident of Glen Oaks, echoed concerns, likening the placement of such facilities to installing a jail within neighborhoods. "My thing is there are plenty of available spaces that the East Baton Rouge Parish metro council or any other private organization can put a facility in," Richard stated. "We want to have those groups held accountable."

Hurst intends to introduce new legislation at the upcoming planning and zoning meeting, aiming to impose stricter regulations on the location of psychiatric hospitals. The proposed rules would apply to District 5 and other districts in Baton Rouge, requiring a 1,000-foot separation between schools, parks, and neighborhoods, along with heavy commercial zoning and approval from the respective metro council member.

"We support mental health, and we support mental health facilities in our community, but there needs to be a buffer between the forensic psychiatrist and the neighborhoods," Hurst emphasized.

The next planning and zoning meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 20th, on the 3rd Floor of City Hall, with doors opening at 3:45 p.m.

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