HANCOCK COUNTY – A health care provider is building a team of mental health professionals who will be able to respond directly to someone in the community experiencing a mental health crisis.

Those efforts, which received a multi-million-dollar windfall last year, come at a time when data reflects significant mental health needs in the county.

In 2022 the Hancock County Commissioners committed $5 million toward two mental health initiatives. The funds came from the approximately $15 million the county received from a federal COVID-19 stimulus package.

One of the initiatives consists of offering navigation for those moving through the county’s criminal justice system to provide support and help them manage and overcome barriers in the areas of mental health, addiction and other social needs associated with those challenges. It’s led by Healthy365, Hancock Health’s community health arm.

The other initiative is led by the Community Behavioral Health/Gallahue Mental Health Center, located at 145 Green Meadows Drive in Greenfield. It consists of creating a mobile response team made up of community health workers who will be able to respond to needs in the community, including joining law enforcement on emergency calls involving mental health matters when it’s safe to do so.

Tondra Crum-Worley, program manager at Community Behavioral Health/Gallahue Mental Health Center, told the county commissioners earlier this month that a manager has been hired for the mobile response team and that other positions will be posted soon.

The plan is to have shift teams of two working from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, Crum-Worley said, adding they’ll be able to handle calls and go out to crisis situations.

“Ideally within a year we’ll be able to be 24/7,” she said. “A lot of that will be determined on the amount of calls we get in, people that we serve, time team frames that we’re getting the most calls, because we want to make sure that we have staff when we’re having those calls.”

Devon Jones, regional director of operations for Community Behavioral Health/Gallahue Mental Health Center, said the biggest challenge to achieving that around-the-clock status is funding.

“Even if the data supports that we need that 24/7, without additional funding that would be impossible,” he said. “The state is starting to push more into mobile crisis, so our hope is that eventually the state releases some funding that we’ll be able to utilize in order to expand us to 24/7.”

Preparations for the mobile crisis team come as mental health needs remain significant in the county. A report from Community Behavioral Health/Gallahue Mental Health Center tallies 660 crisis assessments for 2021. Crisis assessments consist of evaluating those acutely suicidal or gravely disabled – meaning someone in danger of coming to harm as a result of mental illness.

Jones said there were 568 crisis assessments through around November 2022 – the latest for which data is available – and added the total for the year is likely closer to 2021’s. The report reflects 315 acute care admissions for 2021 and 275 through around November 2022.

Treatment for substance use disorder remains a need in the county as well, Jones noted.

“Fentanyl has really overtaken heroin at this point, unfortunately,” he said.

He added he and his colleagues are hearing reports that the drug is starting to be mixed with tranquilizers, which can diminish the effectiveness of naloxone – a medicine that reverses the effect of opioid overdoses.

As the mental health care center prepares to hire the rest of the mobile crisis team, it’s working to overcome other staffing struggles as well.

“One of the challenges that we are facing, like every other business or organization, is workforce,” Jones said, adding the facility is currently down three therapists.

He feels confident, however, about prospects through Community Behavioral Health’s Behavioral Health Academy – a partnership with Indiana University School of Social Work – and colleges and universities that are graduating individuals through Community Behavioral Health’s internship practicum program.

Crum-Worley said even as the center experiences losses in therapy staff, it’s worked hard to continue to take referrals from partners like Hancock County Probation Department, the Indiana Department of Child Services, courts and Healthy365.

She added that after the center receives a referral, it contacts them within 48 hours to schedule for intake, which usually happens within 14 days or less, and that strong efforts are made for seven days or less.

Part of the reason the facility has been able to continue offering treatment despite staff losses is due to increasing the number of group therapy offerings, she said.
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