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After Closures For 'Unacceptable' Conditions, New Orleans To Focus On Senior Living Centers

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. May 2021.
Phoebe Jones / WWNO
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. May 2021.

After New Orleans officials shut down several senior apartment complexes over the weekend, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said her administration is focused on ensuring that residents who were moved from those assisted living facilities in the city after Hurricane Ida are returned to facilities that are in better conditions.

“What we found was unacceptable and accountability will be across the board,” Cantrell said at a press conference on Monday. “But right now we will remain focused on improving the conditions in the facilities that we closed. We will not see this happen again.”

After the storm, the New Orleans Health Department conducted wellness checks at several senior apartment complexes and found eight facilities to be unfit for ongoing occupancy. Strike teams found five people dead in some of those homes, a statement from the city said.

New Orleans Department of Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said the teams rerouted roughly 200 residents on the first day of the wellness checks to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The city has moved around 600 people to the convention center in total, some of which have been sent to shelters in other parts of Louisiana.

“We mourn everyone from the last few days,” Avegno said. “We can and must do much better to help them and it is critical to the health and overall quality of life of our city that we treat our elders and our most vulnerable with the highest levels of dignity.”

The Archdiocese of New Orleans manages six of the eight facilities that were deemed unfit. When questioned about whether the responsibility for the poor conditions that were found at the facilities should lie with the city, Cantrell said it should lie with the privately operated facilities that receive public subsidies.

“I think accountability needs to be where it is and that’s on these institutions, the Diocese, whoever. They’re paid. This isn’t free,” Cantrell said. “It was negligence and it is not on the backs of the city of New Orleans. But we will make sure that proper ordinances are in place.”

Councilmember Kristen Gisleson Palmer, who also spoke at the press conference, said after the storm, her staff began calling the homes and no one was answering the phones. Some facilities have said their homes are for independent living, Palmer said.

“It’s not independent living if there’s no power and you’re in a wheelchair and are on the fourth floor,” Palmer said.

Palmer said at least one manager of a facility had evacuated to Mobile, Alabama. Her team also went to check on some facilities and saw a sign instructing residents to call 3-1-1.

Bobbi-Jeanne Misick is the justice, race and equity reporter for the Gulf States Newsroom, a collaboration between NPR, WWNO in New Orleans, WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama and MPB-Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson. She is also an Ida B. Wells Fellow with Type Investigations at Type Media Center.

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