Dr. Ronald F. Boudreaux died February 4, 2023, at the age of 79. He had struggled with complications of Parkinson’s for two decades. Over his 40-year career, Dr. Boudreaux lead the state in establishing a comprehensive system of public health services for children and youth who suffered from severe emotional problems. Dedicated to the practice of public mental health, he built coalitions to integrate services across the state for serving children and their families, created advocacy groups such as the Federation of Families, and spear-headed innovative programs which embraced the scientific evaluation of effectiveness for the benefit of the citizens. Dr. Boudreaux created the standards of child and adolescent care for Louisiana and wiith excellence, integrity, and humility. He was a joyful and positive influence on all those he encountered along the way.
In 2020 the Louisiana Psychological Association, state affiliate of the American Psychological Association, honored Dr. Boudreaux with the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
“In honor of Dr. Boudreaux’s dedicated service and pioneering career in establishing a comprehension system of public mental health services for children, youth and families in Louisiana, and as the Chief Psychologist for the state Office of Mental Health (OMH). Dr. Boudreaux’s professional career is truly exemplary of the dedicated public service of a psychologist who has significantly advanced the state of the art of public mental health for children, youth and families in Louisiana. And yet, he has remained a very humble man of character. The Louisiana Psychological Association wishes to acknowledge Dr. Boudreaux’s pioneering professional contributions and to wish him well in his retirement.”
Close friend and work associate, Dr. Randall Lemoine, said, “I was blessed to have been a colleague of Ron’s during most of my 30+ year tenure as a psychologist at the State Office of Mental Health. During that time, I personally witnessed and admired Ron’s leadership, his professionalism, and his passion for service to those most in need. Ron’s contributions to public mental health programs for children and youth were unsurpassed––he literally put child/youth mental health services ‘on the map.’
Dr. Lemoine, now in private practice and also retired from the state, was Director, Division of Business Intelligence and Information Management for the Louisiana Office of Behavioral Health.
“Also, to my knowledge, Ron was the first statewide Chief Psychologist,” said Dr. Lemoine, “a trail blazer raising the stature of psychologists in pubic service. After he retired from state service, Ron’s dedication, compassion and skill as a clinical child psychologist in private practice were renowned in our Baton Rouge community. I am grateful to have had opportunities to visit with Ron during his final years at Saint James Place, during which time we got to reminisce about his remarkable career and the ‘good ole days’ of public mental health,” said Dr. Lemoine.
Current President of the Louisiana Psychological Association and professor at University of Louisiana Lafayette, Dr. Paula Zeanah, noted that Dr. Boudreaux “… held leadership positions in the Office of Behavioral Health. Notably, he ushered in an important era in mental health services by leading the development of services for infants and young children, Early Childhood Supports and Services. Prior to ECSS, young children were not served in community mental health clinics,” Dr. Zeanah said. “I had great respect and admiration for his deep commitment to children’s mental health in Louisiana. He was friendly and professional, had a calm yet strong presence, and was a pleasure to work with.”
Dr. Boudreaux’s distinguished public mental health career began in 1970’s as a staff psychologist and program grant lead on the adolescent unit at Central Louisiana State Hospital in Pineville. He then served as the Chief Executive Officer of Green Well Springs Adolescent Hospital in Baton Rouge.
In the 1980s, Dr. Boudreaux became the director of children’s services for the state Office of Mental Health. He served as the Program Director for CASSP – the Child and Adolescent Service System Program, a federal grant-funded program to transform the then traditional community mental health clinic-based service system to what is now recognized as the standard of care; i.e., child and family community-based services and supports offered throughout community settings, including homes and schools.
The Child and Adolescent Service System Program increased the availability of community-based, comprehensive, coordinated systems of care for seriously emotionally disturbed children and adolescents. State-level activities included needs assessment and planning, modification of the state mental health system, interagency collaboration, constituency building, technical assistance and training, and local system development.
Dr. Boudreaux spearheaded development of innovative services such as child and family intervention teams, home-based crisis intervention programs, care management, and parent respite programs. He worked closely with judges to establish juvenile justice programs and reforms. And, he facilitated the development of a standard definition for the educational exceptionality of Emotional/Behavioral Disorder for use by the State Department of Education Bulletin 1508 to promote services and supports in schools.
In the 1990s, Dr. Boudreaux’s work to establish a comprehensive system of care for children, youth and families continued under the Federal Block Grant State Mental Health Plan. He continued to build coalitions to integrate services across the state child-serving agencies, and through advocacy groups, such as the Federation of Families and the State Mental Health
Planning Council. He spearheaded a novel program evaluation of the quality and effectiveness of services (LaFete) through teams of parents trained to interview family service recipients and to report their findings in a service report card with quality improvement recommendations.
Dr. Boudreaux was very active in developing and implementing policies and procedures to divert children from hospitalization to less restrictive, more effective community-based care.
During this time, Dr. Boudreaux was also promoted to the Chief Psychologist for state mental health system, and in this capacity provided policy/procedure development and operational command for psychological services across the state, including internship programs.
Dr. Boudreaux retired from the Office of Mental Health after 40 years of public service. During his career, he also completed a fellowship through Tulane University’s School of Medicine in
infant mental health, with a concentration in attachment theory research in infant-parent bonding. His research and clinical training programs created widespread access to critical support for underprivileged families in crisis.
In addition to his public sector career, he counseled thousands of Baton Rouge area children and families through his private practice. He concluded his career – post retirement from the
State – working with Dr. Donna Farguson at Family Focus, a multidisciplinary mental health practice, in the early childhood assessment and treatment office.
According to family and friends from his obituary in the Advocate, Dr. Boudreaux was affectionately known as “Boud-dha” and “Paw Paw” to his family.
The family notes that he was a native of Lafayette, and from ninth grade until undergraduate graduation from Catholic University, Washington DC, was enrolled in the seminary to become a priest. Upon graduation, he became determined to be a psychologist instead. He earned a PhD in clinical psychology from Louisiana State University in 1971.
“Ron had a way of making everyone feel heard, seen, loved and appreciated. To his children, he was their “rock,” and to his friends and family he was an incredibly warm, caring, kind and compassionate man. He could also make you cry laughing with his Cajun “Boudreaux” jokes and stories, hearkening back to his beloved Lafayette roots. Every Christmas Eve, he would light up children’s faces when he told ‘The Cajun Night Before Christmas’ in his jolly Cajun accent as thick as his mama’s roux,” noted the family.
“He built furniture, fences and barns with his own hands, was an excellent photographer, loved watercolor, and thoroughly enjoyed sports, especially playing tennis. Ron loved his family, hisprofession, reading, travel, music of all sorts-from Cajun to classical, cooking, good food, and good friends. He couldn’t begin the day without a mug of black coffee, loved the sound of the gulf surf, a good glass of red wine or single malt scotch.
“During the last twenty-five years of his life, he took up pilates, boxing, Tai Chi and indulged his love for travel, visiting Vietnam, Republic of Georgia, Egypt, eastern Europe, Chile, Tuscany,
Provence, and Spain, and many parts of the United States with his longtime ‘lady friend’ (his description) Mary Ann Sternberg.”
Dr. Boudreaux was preceded in death by his parents Florence (Daigle) and Felix Boudreaux of Lafayette. He is survived by his son Jonathan Michael Boudreaux and grandchildren Aaron and Araya; daughter Nicole Boudreaux Kleinpeter and grandchildren Camille and Thomas (Baton Rouge); his brother Kurt Boudreaux and wife Sherry and family (Lafayette); and longtime friend Mary Ann Sternberg (Baton Rouge).
Friend and colleague, Dr. W. Alan Coulter, organizational school psychologist, said, “Ron was a very effective, positive voice for children’s mental health. He significantly advanced awareness for infant mental health in Louisiana. Ron was wisely skeptical and abhorred organizational politics, although he practiced those politics very well. Personally, Ron was the gentlest Cajun bear who gave great hugs and free wisdom.”
Dr. Tony Speier, who served in the state mental health organization with Dr. Boudreaux for many years, wrote, “A grand and kind person who opened doorways every day for many in lifeand as joyful as any man and friend. Thanks Ron for being ever–blessed and thanks for your blessings.”
Dr. Kelley Pears, PTSD psychologist with the Alexandria VA Healthcare System, said, “Ron was an inspiration to my generation of psychologists. He was welcoming, friendly, bright and funny. Blessings to his family & friends.”