Porter-Starke Services President and CEO Rocco Schiralli dropped in on the
Porter County Council’s Tuesday meeting with a detailed study of how
utilizing accumulated interest money from the sale of Porter hospital could
improve health care in Porter County.
Schiralli said according to figures by the National Institute of Mental
Health, 26 percent of Americans have a behavioral health disorder. If
applied to Porter County, that would mean there are nearly 43,000 residents
who have some disorder.
Because the impact is so prevalent, Schiralli asked the council to consider
dishing out a one-time investment of $835,000 to the non-profit
Porter-Starke Services, the county’s only psychiatric inpatient center, and
$6 million to establish a healthcare-designated fund that would fuel
projects by other institutions for continued care.
The $835,000 inquiry encompasses three sub-proposals to expand on-site
prevention and education services worth $525,000 which includes a 3,000
square foot addition to the Valparaiso facility, build on an inpatient care
center and a multi-purpose room to incorporate health and fitness into the
treatment plans of Porter-Starke patients worth $285,000, and conduct a
health needs assessment survey, costing $25,000, that will prioritize areas
of health care that are in need of further funding.
Schiralli said the capital projects will be sustainable through the annual
operations budget. The $6 million investment would generate roughly $120,000
annually at a conservative interest rate, which would go to help fund other
projects, he said.
Porter-Starke serves 9,600 people annually and improvements at Porter-Starke
could serve more than 75,000 over the next thirty years, Schiralli said.
A 2008 needs assessment commissioned by the Porter County Community
Foundation and United Way of Porter County indicated residents felt drug
abuse and medical care were two of the top major areas of concern in Porter
Treating behavior disorders can help high school students earn their diploma
as it is estimated 45 percent of drop-outs have severe mental health issues.
Schiralli said that 90 percent of individuals housed in Porter County Jail
are incarcerated directly or indirectly due to substance abuse and
prevention and education programs can reduce the number lockups.
If the council should fund the request, Porter-Starke will develop more
services to its Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programming for
the reduction of chronic pain conditions, high blood pressure, heart disease
and stress. The enhancements to the inpatient care center will renovate
patient rooms as single occupancy for client privacy and safety.
The program features skill building since nearly half (48 percent) of those
admitted at Porter-Starke are unemployed or are looking for work.
When Porter-Starke clients integrate into the community, other non-profit
care facilities can coordinate care and outcomes would be measured through
the community health needs assessment.
“These are things that can improve the quality of life in our county,”
Schiralli also mentioned at the County Council’s special meetings to hear
taxpayers’ opinions on how the hospital interest money should be spent, more
than 50 percent of the comments fell under education, healthcare and quality
of life, even topping tax relief and economic development.
The money would be in addition to the $1.7 million Porter-Starke annually
receives from the county through a state mandate supporting indigent care
for those suffering from poverty.
Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said before he would consider
tapping into hospital funds, he would like to first hear input from other
non-profit groups in the county which specialize in assisting residents such
as the Moraine House and the Respite House and ensure that there are would
be no duplication of services between the agencies.
Schiralli agreed to Whitten’s notion that all stakeholders should be
considered in the request and said the council should take its time with the
“We hope there is opportunity for all of us,” said Schiralli.
Council member Sylvia Graham, D-at large, said it would be great for
Porter-Starke to “spiffy up” its facilities. She said a study previously
done five years ago co-commissioned by Porter-Starke revealed the need for
the county to have drug treatment programs, adding the council “should take
a hard look” at the request.
Fellow Council member Laura Blaney, D- at large, said she thought the
request was well-researched and provided good reasons to use the money but
agreed with her peers to table the request 6-0.
Not present at the meeting was Council member, Karen Conover, R-3rd.
According to the most recent figures in the county treasurer’s office, the
county has built up roughly $9.5 million in interest from the 2007 sale of
the county’s Porter Memorial Hospital.