Aug. 3, 2016 09:43 AM
Rob Reardon
Photo by Robin May

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation announced Wednesday morning that it has recruited Rob Reardon, who most recently served as director of corrections for the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office and was highly regarded for his work, to establish a crisis intervention center in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Reardon is the first executive director of The Bridge Center, a nonprofit created by BRAF to take better care of people with mental illness and substance abuse problems. He has nearly three decades of experience in this field, including the past 15 years under former Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mike Neustrom. Reardon and Neustrom worked to institute data-driven initiatives that helped rehabilitate offenders and reduce recidivism.

“We picked Rob because of his accomplishments in Lafayette,” John M. Spain, the foundation’s executive vice president who oversees its civic projects, said in a press release. “He created a system that saved money and treated people with mental illness in a humane way, while making the parish a safer place for all.”

As director of corrections in Lafayette, Reardon implemented mental health services, increased the number of prisoners incarcerated in their own homes instead of in parish prison, expanded re-entry services to reduce recidivism, and offered services to let kids in trouble become productive adults.

“I strongly believe that incarceration, although sometimes necessary, is usually not the best solution to those dealing with mental illness and substance abuse issues,” Reardon said in the release.

Reardon received a master’s degree in management from Saint Mary’s University and graduated with a double major in criminal Justice and sociology from Moorhead State University. He chaired the Substance Abuse Re-Entry Committee for the Louisiana Department of Corrections and was chair of the Children’s Youth Planning Board. He’s an adjunct professor at UL Lafayette.

Reardon will become part of an existing EBR community project. The foundation has collaborated with behavioral health experts and law enforcement officials for about two years to tackle the issue of how to handle the growing number of people with mental illness and substance abuse problems who break minor laws.

According to the press release:
Law enforcement officers now have only two choices. They take the mentally ill to emergency rooms or place them in jail. As a solution, the Foundation’s project is offering an effective alternative – a crisis intervention center modeled after a successful San Antonio program. The EBR center would provide appropriate services, depending on the needs. Law enforcement officers could drop off mentally ill people and return much more quickly to protecting the communities.

The center would include a sobering unit, a medical detox program, behavioral health respite beds, and a care management team to coordinate care after individuals leave the center.

Project leaders have found an existing detoxification center with extra space on South Foster to locate the crisis intervention center. The Foundation has pledged to cover renovation costs, while Mayor Kip Holden has proposed a 1.5 mill property tax that would generate about $5.8 million annually to pay for operations. If the Metro Council approves the property tax proposal, it will be on the December ballot.

Overall, the crisis center is expected to save EBR money because treatment costs less than incarceration. In a report by The Perryman Group, economists say a treatment center would save East Baton Rouge taxpayers $55 million in the first 10 years, an estimate computed on data from the successful San Antonio model that the Foundation project is attempting to replicate here.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation, among the largest community foundations in the country, works in two ways to improve the lives of people across South Louisiana. It serves philanthropists, helping them pursue the causes they care about, and it takes on projects for civic good. The foundation and its fund donors have granted more than $400 million to nonprofits over more than five decades. Its projects include rebuilding inner city neighborhoods, reviving downtown Baton Rouge, improving health care services, improving education and the quality of life. The foundation also supports local nonprofits with strategic consulting services.