Southeast Louisiana State Hospital

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Southwest Louisiana State Hospital
Established 1948
Construction Began 1950
Opened 1952
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Mandeville, LA
Alternate Names
  • Northlake Behavioral Health System (Current)


Planning for the third psychiatric treatment facility for the State, to be located in the New Orleans area, began in the 1940's. Originally, plans were made to develop the Third Floor of Charity Hospital in New Orleans into a 500-bed psychiatric unit. However, it was felt that a large number of beds were required and space was not available at Charity Hospital. Therefore, the decision was made to build a 2,700 bed hospital, which was thought to be the number of beds required, in Mandeville, LA. Construction of a 400-bed hospital was initiated which would be the first phase of construction. Sometime later, however, with the introduction of Chlorpromazine and the Therapeutic Community Concept, plans to expand the hospital to 2,700 beds were dropped.

In 1948, Senate Bill No. 272 was entered by Messrs. Richardson and Gardiner to create the third hospital of the State of Louisiana for the mentally ill. The bill passed and Southeast Louisiana Hospital was created by Act No. 238 approved by the Governor, July 1, 1948.

Construction of the Adult Services Building, three individual employee residences, a four unit apartment complex and the Boiler Room were begun in 1950 and completed in 1952. The Admission and Diagnostic Building, currently the Administration Building, was also constructed by 1952 complete with an operating room. Only one surgery, a lobotomy, was performed here before the surgery suite was permanently closed.

Hospital opened to employees on October 6, 1952 and received its first client on December 8, 1952; a 22 year old white female admitted on a court commitment from Orleans Parish, with a diagnosis of Schizophrenic Reaction, Chronic Undifferentiated. Additional employee housing was constructed in 1954, 1960 and 1962. In 1955 the Laundry building was added; in 1956 Automotive Maintenance building and in 1961 Warehouse and Maintenance Offices.

The Receiving Building and Adolescent Units were constructed in 1955. In 1959 the Adolescent Services opened with 84 beds which included a school operated under the Department of Education, Special School District #1. That same year, children ages 5 to 14 years were admitted to a small 25 bed unit. The children also received services from Special School District #1. In 1955 construction began on the Alcoholism Treatment Service and opened to received patients in 1960 with a bed capacity of 60.

In 1970/71 a new children's complex was opened, increasing bed capacity to 83. The complex includes a Recreation Building and Gymnasium. In 1970, a volunteer program, the Thomas L. Young Auxiliary, was organized and continues to provide a variety of services to the people the hospital serves as well as funds for various projects and activities which are not funded through SELH budget appropriation.

In 1972, a Vocational Rehabilitation Unit was added, a joint venture of the Vocational Rehabilitation Department and the hospital. The hospital provided 30 inpatient beds, formerly the 25-bed children's unit, and staff, while V.R. provided personnel and equipment for the education, desensitization and placement of patients in work or training situations.

In 1982 a new seventy-four bed adolescent complex was opened which included a new Adolescent School and School Administration Building. The old Adolescent Unit was closed and not used for several years until renovation was completed in 1986/87. On June 24, 1992 a portion of the old adolescent unit was opened as a twenty bed brief stay adolescent unit named New Hope. The average length of stay was 41 days. But, in March of 1997 the New Hope program was converted to an acute care adolescent unit with a length of stay under twenty-one (21) days.

In July of 1992 the Alcohol and Drug Unit (formerly ATS, Alcoholism Treatment Services) was transferred to the management of DHH, Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, but remains housed at SELH. October of 1992, an eighteen (18) bed Adult Acute Psychiatric Unit, staffed and managed by SELH, opened at Washington/St. Tammany Regional Medical Center in Bogalusa, LA. Serving the residents of Region IX, it is a tri-agency partnership, e.g., SELH, Region IX Community Mental Health Services and LSU/HCSD.

On March 29, 1993, SELH converted two of the five adolescent wards into a twenty-five bed Developmental Neuropsychiatric Program (DNP) for adolescent patients with a dual diagnosis of mental illness and developmental disability. The remaining three adolescent wards served forty eight adolescent patients. The thirty (30) adult Vocational Rehabilitation inpatient beds were transferred to the management of Louisiana Rehabilitation Services (LRS) on December 12, 1994. Included in the transfer were the twelve (12) positions assigned to the thirty bed unit.[1]

Under new ownership Southeast Louisiana State Hospital has become what is known today as, Northlake Behavioral Health System.

Today, Northlake Behavioral Health System remains the largest behavioral health institution in Louisiana. In 2016, Northlake became a 501(c)(3) not for profit hospital with a mission to provide quality services to individuals with mental and behavioral concerns. The hospital and its caring team of professionals are valued members of the community, who prioritize giving back through different partnerships and organizations. Northlake is a teaching hospital that provides Louisiana medical and clinical professionals an active and supportive teaching environment. Northlake Behavioral Health System is involved with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), Louisiana State University, and is accredited by The Joint Commission.