BATON ROUGE- A critical mental health program was spared after two nurses quit the Capital Area Human Services District after receiving better offers working as traveling nurses.
The program provides mental health help for those with addictive disorders, and their director was concerned it would have to close after the State Civil Serivce Commission denied pay raises for the two nurses.
Their director, Dr. Jan Laughinghouse, went before the Civil Service Commission asking for a pay raise for those employees. Both nurses have been with CAHSD for about 20 years. One was making around $48,000 and the other was making $44,000. Both wanted their salaries elevated but the Civil Service Commission denied pay raises to them.
Months earlier, the same commission granted a $20,000 pay raise for the agency’s director, Byron Decoteau. Decoteau is now making $175,000. Decoteau also gave two employees under him significant raises. Chris Deer received nine pay increases in four years. Nicole Tucker received 11 pay increases in three years. All of them are making well into the six figure ranges.
“I’m from north Louisiana, and we don’t like to open the barn door and let the horses out,” D. Scott Hughes, one of the Civil Service Commissioners, told Laughinghouse at the meeting. “I feel your pain, but I’m voting no. I can’t open this barn door.”
“This does not look good because you guys are responsible for how civil service runs across the state,” State Senator Regina Barrow told Decoteau and the Commission’s Chairman Monday. “So, our main agency has the main guy getting a 13% pay raise, at the end of the day people should be paid what they are worth. I always support minimum wage increases, but this is not a good look.”
WBRZ asked Laughinghouse if this makes her lose confidence in the system.
“I’m an eternal optimist, so no,” Laughinghouse said. “I have not lost confidence in the system. I will continue to show up. I have the right to ask and they have the right to say no. I will continue to advocate for the people who do the work.”
The nurses who quit were rehired days ago with a ten percent pay increase.
“We made the offer for her to resume her position at a ten percent increase,” Laughinghouse said.
The ten percent raises equal about $4,500 each. Laughinghouse said while the nurses were away others stepped in to fill the gaps saving the critical program.