Mental Health Hub

Indiana University School of Medicine officials aim to make Evansville a center for training psychiatry specialists.

Officials have eyes on Evansville becoming a nationally recognized workforce that addresses the state’s lack of child and adolescent psychiatrists.

Since a $34.2 million donation from Bill Stone and Mary O’Daniel Stone to build a Center for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry was announced in 2021, Indiana University School of Medicine Evansville has been working with community partners to implement programs addressing the youth mental health crisis in the region from multiple angles. Their urgency has merit: The cost of untreated mental health issues in the state of Indiana is estimated to be $4.2 billion.

School officials told Evansville Business in January that a strategic plan would be announced in late April. Dr. Steven Becker, Associate Dean and Director and Koch Professor of Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine Evansville, and Dr. Julianne Giust, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, presented that plan to the Rotary Club of Evansville during an April 16 luncheon.

“We are working to create a nationally recognized regional workforce development hub that is really prioritizing prevention and treatment,” Giust said during the presentation.

Why Evansville? “Why not?” Becker says.

While in its early stages, a plan to address youth mental health also is underway.

“Mental health problems significantly affect our youth, it affects our families, it affects our societies,” Giust said during the presentation.

A map from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry shows Indiana has a severe shortage of practicing child and adolescent psychiatrists. Three-fourths of counties appear in red, meaning there are no practicing child and adolescent psychiatrists. Vanderburgh County has five. The responsibility for those children who do get mental health treatment often is in the hands of primary care providers, not specialists.

“You cannot talk about child mental health without hearing somebody say ‘Where are the child psychiatrists?’” Giust said.

“We are the lowest in terms of child psychiatrists in a five-state area,” Becker added during the presentation.

Attacking the problem from multiple angles means working with regional nonprofits, schools, local business and government leaders, and health care providers and hospitals, including Riley Children’s Health, the Rotarians were told. The approach has included a task force with subcommittees to work towards specific goals to positively address youth mental health.

“We’re not going to solve this problem just by growing new child psychiatrists. We need to have major reform,” Giust emphasized during the presentation. “… There are so many people who are very passionate about changing the landscape for youth mental health in this region … it’s just not enough. We have to figure out how to amplify that together. … Our mental health care system is highly disorganized.”

One goal is a collaborative care model that involves embedding therapists in primary care settings to help identify problem areas and recommend further treatment, if necessary, as well as intervention in schools — something groups like Youth First Inc. already are involved in. Both approaches, in primary care settings and schools, provide more opportunities to train future therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

Giust also revealed the Mary O’Daniel Stone and Bill Stone Training Center to train community members interfacing with youth from volunteers to primary care to specialized behavioral health workforce. An early pilot program will have medical student volunteers recruited to facilitate groups involved in a 10-week strengthening families prevention program delivered by Youth First to youth and families in the community.

“It will become the heart of the work we’re doing,” Giust said.

Becker talked more about workforce development, including graduating more specialists from the University of Evansville doctorate in clinical psychology program and starting a masters of psychology program University of Southern Indiana. He also spoke about a new child psychiatry residency program, that, while still subject to approval, could be implemented by 2027 in Evansville with six to eight residents a year. Increasing the number of internships also is important, but right now there are three internship spots at Easterseals Rehabilitation Center. Becker says there are at least five more positions needed in the region.

Recruiting psychiatrists remains critical. Becker says IUSM/MOS Evansville plans to help fund six faculty members — four child and adolescent psychiatry positions, and two adult and geriatric positions. They would get 10-30 percent of their salary from IUSM Evansville and the Stone Center, and the hospitals would pay for their clinical practices. The adult specialist positions will be supported by the Bronstein-endowed chairs donated in 2016. Becker says IUSM Evansville also plans to hire five child psychologists and a research chair. These faculty will be part of the Stone Center and its training center.

“We plan on using a significant portion of the gift to support recruiting these individuals to our region,” Becker said.

He added that IUSM Evansville plans to build a real-world evidence data analytics center in association with the Stone Center for Health Sciences. The center will utilize a dataset of five million psychiatry patients from across the country.

“We want to use the Mary O’Daniel Stone and Bill Stone Center to facilitate and energize things that are already in our community that are doing great work but need support. We also want to tie things together in a systematic approach so that we’re all moving in a similar direction with evidence-based trainings that work,” Becker says. “Ultimately we want Evansville to become a workforce development hub … and then building this world-class training center, which is at the hub of all of it.”

“The work is really anchored in a critical need. … There’s a lot of opportunity to collaborate and expand the really great work that is already going on,” Giust says.

Stone Family Center for Health Science’s Economic Impact:

A comprehensive report will be released soon, but an economic impact study conducted by Tripp Umbach for the region shows that Evansville is the fastest-growing health care sector among peer markets. The economic impact of health sciences in the region has been $945.9 million over the last decade. The Stone Center for Health Sciences’ economic impact from construction between 2016 and 2018 amounts to $103.6 million, and employment, operations, students, and visitors in 2022 account for $42.6 million in economic impact. An economic impact of $196.8 million is expected from the 76 new physician graduates by 2026.

“It’s an enormous impact,” Becker said. “We need to continue expanding residency programs. We certainly are in a position to do that … if we’re going to supply the health care needs of physicians that we need for the next 30 to 50 years.”

Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti joined Tucker Publishing Group in September 2022 as a staff writer. She graduated from Gettysburg College in 2020 with a bachelors degree in English. A Connecticut native, Maggie has ridden horses for 15 years and has hunt seat competition experience on the East Coast.

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