Ochsner to build neuroscience center, including early dementia clinic | Healthcare/Hospitals

Ochsner Health will break ground early next year on a new, stand-alone neuroscience center that will house an early dementia clinic, rehabilitation services and integrative services such as music and aquatic therapy, in what the system hopes will make New Orleans a “true destination for neurological diseases,” said Dr. CJ Bui, co-director of the Ochsner Neuroscience Institute.

The project will consolidate existing services with new services for both children and adults.

“When you get people together who all look at problems in different ways, the total is more than the sum,” Bui said last week. “We will bring together over 20 different centers, clinics and programs under one roof.”

The 132,000-square-foot building — roughly the size of two football fields — will be called the Robert J. and Debra H. Patrick Neuroscience Center and will be located across the street from Ochsner Medical Center on Jefferson Highway. The Patricias, described as New Orleans entrepreneurs and longtime supporters of the hospital system, donated an undisclosed amount to establish the center. Robert Patrick is the managing partner of The Patrick Companies and has served on the Ochsner board for the past ten years.

Ochsner has been planning the neuroscience center for nearly a decade, Bui said, following the sudden departure of many neuroscience specialists after Hurricane Katrina. It will be funded through a combination of donations and investments from the hospital system.

Hospital officials hope the new neuroscience center will address Louisiana’s high burden of brain and spine disease and help diagnose diseases like dementia earlier, when interventions have a better chance of improving quality of life in the long term.

Brain health experts have long warned about the rise not only of mental illness, but also of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia as the general population lives longer and baby boomers reach their 60s and 70s.

“Louisiana and the Gulf Coast need this even more; we’re just seeing a disproportionately higher burden of disease than anywhere else,” Bui said.

Nearly 14% of people over the age of 45 in Louisiana have subjective cognitive decline. Louisiana has the fourth-highest Alzheimer’s death rate in the US, trailing nearby Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

Louisiana is also in the nation’s stroke belt, said Dr. Richard Zweifler, system chair of neurology and co-director of the Ochsner Neuroscience Institute.

The center aims to attract more specialty doctors and training programs following a national trend of specialization in health care. The explosion of ways to diagnose and treat diseases of the brain and spine has led to the need for more specific expertise.

“Twenty years ago, you would have a lot more neurologists who are generalists and can manage a lot of different things,” Zweifler said. Now, diseases like multiple sclerosis, for example, require multiple experts and imaging and infusion centers, Zweifler said.

The new location also aims to address the difficulty of caring for someone with a neurological condition. There’s a consideration of traffic flow and how you can drop off someone who has cognitive disabilities, Hui said. The healing garden will be a respite for caregivers and patients. The center will also have predictive machine learning with artificial intelligence, which may be able to calculate the risk of developing dementia before symptoms begin.

Once construction begins early next year, the building is expected to be completed around 2025.

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