THE WAY WE SEE IT: Behavioral health center plan is welcome, badly needed | Opinion


IIndiana Regional Medical Center’s passive announcement of the planned construction of a behavioral health center on its White Township campus is good news in many ways for this community.

The plan is for an inpatient center for the assessment and treatment of behavioral disorders, a discipline which by most definitions includes the treatment of mental health but also the impact of behaviors on the health of a person – physical and mental.

The center would have beds for up to 44 patients and each would house up to 30 days of care. The timing couldn’t be better. Well, maybe it could have – those involved in behavioral health assessment and treatment have long counseled and intervened within their means, but they need more.

It’s something that’s been needed for a while and probably should have been in place years ago when people started talking openly about mental health. However, many people suffer in silence because of the stigma attached to “mental health” and “mental illness”, so the name “behavioral health” may be more acceptable.

The Open Door of Indiana, primarily a drug, alcohol and crisis center, responds 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to calls from its crisis line and sends its clinicians on the road as needed. The agency’s recent caseload figures show a nearly even split of the 500 people seen each month: about 250 people seeking mental health crisis help and another 250 seeking drug and alcohol intervention. (broadly categorized as behavioral health issues) – a workload that fuels the need for IRMC’s Behavioral Health Center.

Open Door works with the IRMC Emergency Service for consumers requiring the most critical intervention and care. At the end of the day, executive director Megan Miller told the Gazette that many patients who are not better served by a phone conversation or a visit with a counselor are referred to Clarion, Pittsburgh or other regional hospital facilities. for processing due to local shortage.

The Indiana Regional Medical Center has a dedicated geriatric psychiatry unit, but no beds are assigned to county residents under age 55. For younger behavioral health patients, the disruption extends to their families and friends disrupting their own lives for distant trips to out-of-town facilities.

“We’re super happy they’re building this,” Miller said. “Most people agree it’s a need. It would be nice to keep our people local. We work closely with IRMC; they are very data driven and they have rightly determined that there is a need. We can keep our community members in our community because it is disruptive for these families to have to travel to support their loved ones.

The need for this asset in the overall infrastructure of the medical system has been around for a long time – and the need is not going away.

The fact that it is planned here in Indiana is not an indictment of the behavioral tendencies of our people over others. No region, no group of people, no community is immune to the factors that shape the qualities of life.

“Indiana County is consistent with Pennsylvania and the national number of people with anxiety and serious mental illness and they have been increasing over the past few years,” Miller of The Open Door said. The peak demand on the medical system since the start of the coronavirus pandemic has been far more than infected patients being put on ventilators in intensive care units. The number of cases of people suffering mentally and behaviorally in response to pandemic-induced stress from the Open Door and similar agencies has gone up and not down.

Fear of contracting COVID-19 is one of them. “The social events of the past two years have increased people’s stress levels. Isolation is not good for people,” Miller said. “Even introverts need contact and need relationships. This has put a strain on everyone.”

The IRMC project deserves equitable support because its service can reach every resident of the county.

One of the elephants in the room is that of “what are people going to think of this?” The concept of “behavioral health” doesn’t quite carry the stigma that “mental health” or “mental illness” has endured throughout history. “What will the neighbors think? is still there.

At a time when fast food and couch potato lifestyles (translated into behavioral issues) are more socially accepted or tolerated, the community’s welcome for IRMC’s proposed behavioral health center should be warm and encouraging.

The fact is, mental health is a real problem, has been a real problem, and will continue to be a real problem. This center is definitely a great thing and a positive step for health care in the Indiana area.


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