Witham Health Services, foundation focus on mental health

Gathering in the emergency room last week at Witham Health Services are (from left) Dr. Rena Zenarosa, Emergency Department Clinical Director Becky Bradley, InWell’s Lynette Clark and Doug McGuire, and Dr. Tom Heniff.

With issues such as depression, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder on the rise, a group of dedicated individuals at Witham Health Services is looking to increase mental health support in the emergency department.

“We’re combining our emergency department’s nursing-and-provider team, that is equally talented and knowledgeable in what they do, with Integrated Services (InWell), which has its own amazing team,” Witham Health Services Clinical Director of Emergency Departments Becky Bradley said. “It’s creating this powerhouse for any patient presenting to the emergency department, whether here in Lebanon or at Anson, with a mental health crisis.”

Funding the need

Presenting a check for $39,510 to Bradley and her co-op at Witham Thursday was Witham Health Services Foundation Director Annette Preston, who stressed the importance of combating the national crisis on a local level.

“We now have 24-hour licensed therapists on call who can come to Witham or Anson and immediately start giving professional care to any health crisis patient – no matter the cost,” she said.

Fundraisers for the new program, titled Mental Health in the Emergency Department, have been leading up to Thursday’s check presentation in several ways. From individual donations to community galas, the group continues to receive overwhelming support for local aid.

“Our 2019 Fund the Need project was for this program,” Preston said. “We rolled it out at our gala in May this year. We had 350 attendees – community members, business owners, vendors, friends of the staff – the entire community came out.”

A crisis on the rise

According to a research article titled “Guarding mental health in the emergency room,” released by the American Psychological Association (APA) in June 2018, the number of emergency department visits continues to climb.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 2006 and ‘14, there was a nearly 15% increase in the nation’s use of the emergency room (ER), despite two decades of American healthcare providers working to keep patients out of the ER by expanding primary-care access,” the article reads.

The document goes on to reveal that substance use issues increased by 44%, with suicidal-ideation visits growing by more than 400%, in the same time period.

“We can say that mental health issues are rising everywhere and in every community. Boone County is not any different,” Bradley said. “Witham and InWell are setting themselves apart by saying ‘this is an issue and we’re addressing it.’”

Community impact

With this in mind, and with efficiency, effectiveness, accessibility and affordability kept as key areas of focus, Witham’s emergency department and community foundation have found a seemingly obvious, yet under utilized solution: keep the efforts in-house.

“There are communities that are building multi-million dollar, standalone buildings to do this same type of thing,” Preston said, “but we’re going to be able to do it in both of our emergency rooms without having to build another structure to use the resources we have.”

Witham Health Services, which maintains hospitals in both Lebanon and Zionsville (at Anson), will be utilizing this program at both of its locations. The plan aims to minimize wait times while increasing accessibility of care.

Time is a major player when it comes to effectively treating physical wounds seen in the ER. It is the same with mental wounds, Dr. Rena Zenarosa said.

“Suicide, PTSD, depression – you name it – if it’s a crisis, we get somebody to come and help them immediately,” she said. “Nobody wants to sit for 10 hours while you try to find them a room somewhere else to get help. You want to start helping them when they get here.”

Long-term goals

Though the program is getting the funding it needs to begin serving Boone County residents, its resources are finite. Fortunately, by expanding its services without adding on or constructing a new building, costs have been cut for the county-owned hospital.

However, a long-term need for this and similar programs has been recognized by health officials across the country.

“This program is absolutely not self-sustainable,” Preston said. “We have to find ways to sustain this program, so if anyone in our community would like to help with that, they are more than welcome to contact the foundation.

“We want to keep this going for as long as we can.”

Those looking to donate to the program may visit the website at www.witham.org/foundation or call 765-482-8112 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

For more information, tips and hotlines concerning the national mental health crisis, visit the website at www.mentalhealth.gov.

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