September 12, 2022

Joseph I. Giarrusso

Councilmember Joe Giarrusso Convenes Mental Health Stakeholders to Help Fill Gaps in Citywide Care

Councilmember Joe Giarrusso Convenes Mental Health Stakeholders to Help Fill Gaps in Citywide Care

NEW ORLEANS - Thursday, September 15, District A Councilmember Joe Giarrusso will
convene more than a dozen mental health stakeholders to help identify and fill gaps in
mental health care access across the city.
“This week marks the 10-year anniversary of my dad’s death from a self-inflicted gunshot
wound,” said District A Councilmember Joe Giarrusso. “Time marches on, but I still find
myself asking what could lead to his unbearable depression, and if there’s anything I
could have done to help. What is absolutely clear, however, is how many people lack
necessary access to mental health services and how the mental health system is spread
too thin.”
Councilmember Giarrusso will begin by discussing the death of his father and the
questions that always surround mental illness-related deaths. All other councilmembers
will be given the chance to talk about how the lack of mental health services have
impacted themselves, their families, friends, and communities.
“We see too many in our community suffering silently,” said Council President Helena
Moreno. “Our community, neighbors, friends, and families need us to reach out and treat
mental health seriously. It begins by ending the stigma and building trauma and
behavioral health-informed services for all ages. I want to thank CM Giarrusso for bravely
sharing his family’s story and highlighting the need for more attention to this issue from
“Mental health is one of the greatest challenges that we face as a nation, but this same
issue always seems to be swept under the rug for no one to see or talk about,” said Vice
President Councilmember JP Morrell. “We cannot truly address issues such as crime and
quality of life without recognizing the central role that mental health plays in all of our
lives. I commend Councilmember Giarrusso for tackling this challenge head-on in order to
increase access to mental health services across the City of New Orleans. Our residents,
and especially our children, will be better off with access to these invaluable resources.”
“Strong and accessible mental health care is the foundation of a vibrant city,” said
District B Councilmember Lesli Harris. “Seeing so many members of our community face
their own mental health challenges and struggle to find resources, I know how important
it is to prioritize mental health. This is all the more true through COVID-19 and as our
City continues to be overwhelmed with crime and trauma. Providing resources, such as a
mental health hotline for residents to call, and increasing community connectivity are
vital to supporting our residents and enabling us all to thrive.”
“People throughout our city suffer in silence due to the lack of access to adequate and
affordable mental health services. The stigma surrounding mental health must continue
to be dismantled. I want to thank Councilmember Giarrusso for bringing attention to this
important subject," said District C Councilmember Freddie King III.
"It is important that our society dedicate the resources and the support that are necessary
to address the issues of mental health in our society," said District D Councilmember
Eugene Green. "As human beings, we owe it to our fellow human beings to be aware of
the impact mental health challenges have on so many of us. Mental health issues can
affect anyone. Mental health includes our emotional psychological and social wellbeing.
It is impacted by life experiences and by biological factors. It is important to
remember that it is not a stigma, and that help is available, and that people can get
better. To enhance the quality of life for our entire society, we owe it to ourselves and
mankind to be aware of, concerned about, and motivated to do more to help those that
are in need of mental health programs and other assistance."
“Finally mental health is not backroom or boardroom discussion,” said District E
Councilmember Oliver M. Thomas, Jr. “It’s a public conversation and debate about a
serious topic that affects too many of our family members and friends. Our hearts, our
souls, and our minds should all be in alignment.”
Dr. Jennifer Avegno, director of the City’s Health Department, will guide stakeholder
presentations and serve as the moderator. Dr. Avegno has been and remains a staunch
advocate for improved mental health services across the city.
“Mental health has long been a critical health issue for our community, with historically
limited resources and a fragmented, non-patient centered system of care,” said Dr.
Avegno. “We have suffered, both individually and collectively, with high rates of
untreated mental illness, substance use, and suicide. Fortunately, there are many
dedicated local providers and agencies focused on improving care, and we now have a
transformational opportunity in terms of attention and resources to make lasting
improvements in the mental health of all who call New Orleans home.”
The second segment of the presentation includes the following mental health care
stakeholders, who will share data and talk about their work: The City of New Orleans;
Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies; Metropolitan Human Services District; ViaLink;
Crescent Care; National Alliance on Mental Illness; Odyssey House; New Orleans Children's
Bureau; New Orleans Youth Planning Board; Center for Resilience; NOLA Public Schools;
Trauma Informed Schools; Children's Hospital Grief and Trauma Center; and UMC Trauma
Finally, United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) will discuss how they convene, host,
and advance the work of the presenters as well as other mental health groups. The
ultimate goal for the collaborative is to understand and identify gaps in mental healthcare
in the city and then work to fill those gaps -- whether it is through legislation or
“With nearly 100 years of experience as a lead convener in New Orleans, United Way of
Southeast Louisiana is well-positioned to guide this collaborative of expert partners to
source funding, develop shared goals and strategies, and drive policy change to address
the mental and behavioral health crisis in our city,” said Michael Williamson, UWSELA
president and CEO.
Presentations begin at 10 a.m. Thursday, September 15 in City Council Chambers (1300
Perdido St.). You can also stream online at this link or watch on cable channel 6.
Media Contact:
Claire Byun
Land Use and Policy Director
Office of City Council District A Joseph I. Giarrusso, III
504. 883.1724

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