Porter County mental health officials are in the early stages of working
with state agencies to shift patients who either are mentally
retarded/developmentally disabled or who have chronic addictions from state
hospitals into community-based care.
The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration announced last month
it will be decreasing the number of beds in the six state psychiatric
hospitals now through March 2011 for specific patient populations. In doing
so, the FSSA hopes to increase and promote access to community-based care
for those individuals and also be able to save the state close to $15
million a year.
The county’s largest mental health resource provider, Porter Starke
Services, will assist with the transition. Aileen Wehren, vice-president of
systems administrations at Porter Starke, said it is hard to anticipate what
the outcomes may be for some of the cases, but the organization supports
allowing the patients to be released from the state hospitals who have been
there for an extended period of time.
Wehren said the state recently sent out a Request for Proposals to establish
an addictions treatment program that would take statewide referrals. The
programs would allocate funds to support residential treatment option for
centers of up to sixty beds which Porter Starke would be able to refer into.
The proposals were due on July 28 and currently it is not known who might be
given that contract, said Wehren, who also said it is possible the treatment
centers could be split into two 30-bed providers.
“I do know they intend to fill that gap with a community based residential
provider,” said Wehren, who also thinks the transition should not affect the
current services available at Porter Starke. “Instead of referring to the
state, wel‘orl refer to this other group.”
She said having a residential alternative is necessary for those battling
addictions because they need to be placed in a more regulated structure to
get that treatment process started.
The FSSA has said it will not release patients or clients until they are
able to find a suitable environment to place them in.
For the MR/DD group, Wehren said there are many providers such as
Opportunity Enterprises who are accustomed to working and developing
community-based support for the individuals with those disabilities who will
be interested in transferring those individuals back into the community or
closer to home.
The MR/DD patients will be considered individually on a case-by-case basis
where the service workers will need to figure what level of support is
Wehren said moving the developmentally disabled and the chronic addictions
populations out of hospitals will shift the beds for patients who have more
serious mental illnesses and the state hospitals are not forecasting changes
in services or a decrease in the number of beds for the psychiatric
One thing Werhen would like would to see offered is more affordable housing
units for these individuals to make the transition much easier since many of
them are on very-limited to no income. The U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development, or HUD, sometimes lends funding, but occasionally their
priorities do not match with community-based systems like Porter Starke, she
Executive Director of Mental Health America of Porter County Mary Hodson
said her organization wishes to be a provider or resource in the transition
for those involved with community-based care. She said it is important not
to rush the plan because a hastened change can have a "horrendous" impact on
the individuals‘ chances for recovery.
Hodson said she is not opposed to the plan but advocates that the state
mental health agencies take their time. “If it takes an extra month or
longer, take it,” she said. “We need to keep asking questions. I really
believe in being proactive in advance.”
Some of the questions Hodson is recommending mental health advocates to ask
are: Is this the best service for this individual? Could this person be best
served in the community by programs that are available to them? Where are
the changes necessary?
Hodson said developing an individualized wellness recovery action plan with
the patient and the caretakers is extremely important so they all can
identify triggers and know what course of action to take if the patient
comes into such a situation where there is a trigger.
“Recovery or integrating back into the community is possible for everyone
but there are different levels for each person,” she said.
Hodson said another obstacle in integrating mentally disabled or mentally
ill individuals into the community includes overcoming the stigma that is
present in society.
“Unfortunately, people only pick up on the negative rather than the positive
aspects. They only seem to hear about the worst-case scenarios,” she said.
To combat the stigma, the Mental Health of America organization will be
instituting a number of ways to educate the public about mental illness,
putting the recovery processes in a positive light. Mental health advocates
will begin anti-stigma campaign that will reach out through fundraisers and
the local media.
“It’s going to take an entire community to work together,” said Hodson. “I
look at the positive and that is really important.”
Hodson also said a constant communication between local and state-level
mental health agencies will be needed in order for the transition to be a
Mental Health of America of Porter County provides emergency funding for
medication to those with mental illness. The agency also announced they will
be expanding their daytime opportunities. The center is located at 402
Indiana Ave. in Valparaiso, two blocks east of the Porter County
The FSSA released a statement last month saying the new plan places
approximately 30 percent of state hospital patients to be released into
communities and a redeployment of about 100 beds for patients with serious
The plan, however, does include a number of psychiatric staff layoffs in the
six hospitals. The FSSA is estimating 106 employees will be laid off at the
Richmond State Hospital while another 355 jobs will be lost at Logansport