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Local health systems report major increase in behavioral health patients

More people are seeking mental health assistance
Posted at 5:57 PM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-10 17:57:43-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Both IU Health and Eskenazi Health are caring for more patients with behavioral health issues.

Doctor Anne Gilbert is the director for IU Health’s Virtual Behavioral Health Hub. Gilbert has also worked as a psychiatrist for IU Health for more than 30-years. Gilbert says the number of people in need of mental or behavioral healthcare has greatly increased this year.

"Compared to 2019, we are seeing about double the amount of patients coming into our emergency departments with the primary diagnosis of behavioral health,” said Gilbert.

One in four patients coming into IU’s large emergency departments are receiving a primary behavioral health diagnosis. Gilbert says the situation is starting to have an impact on resources.

"A lot of the inpatient units are reaching capacity,” said Gilbert.

Staff with Eskenazi Health are also experiencing the increase in behavioral health patients.

“The clinics where we treat anxiety, depression, addiction… we’ve seen the biggest increase in access to care at those clinics,” said Kelley Gardner, the Director of Operations at Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center.

There has been a 35% increase in people seeking mental health care at those clinics in just the past three months. The number of patients cared for at the Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center has increased 10% from last year.

Gardner says the number of patients coming in with mental health issues is having an impact on staff as well. That’s why Eskenazi is providing an hour every week for each staff member to talk with a supervisor.

“To talk about tough cases, things that are going on for them, how they are coping with all of the changes we have had to do in response to the pandemic,” said Gardner.

IU Health is providing support for workers as well. Dr. Gilbert says they are preparing to start a peer support program as well as counseling.

If you are in need of mental health assistance, you can call Eskenazi’s hotline at 317-880-8491. It’s open Monday – Thursday 7 am to 6 pm, Friday 7 am – 4:30 pm.