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State officials join Porter-Starke Services in celebrating new crisis center

Michael Gallenberger
Lakeshore Public Media

Those experiencing a mental health crisis will soon have another resource available to seek treatment. Porter-Starke Services plans to open its new Valparaiso crisis center in January. It's designed to provide short-term observation and care up to 24 hours in a less restrictive setting than a psychiatric hospital.

During a ribbon cutting Thursday, Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch said mental health affects everyone, and the General Assembly made major progress in addressing it last session. "We've got to give people good cards to play, and that's what we're doing today with the Porter-Starke Crisis Center, being able to give Hoosiers one more opportunity to get happy and healthy and to get the help that they need," Crouch said.

State Senator Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) authored a bill that provided a major funding boost for public health in Indiana. He noted that health care providers often struggle to find an appropriate place for those dealing with a mental health crisis. He gave a local example from Wednesday night.

"If this crisis center had been in operation, the solution was right here," Charbonneau said. "It's not yet. What they had to do was start looking around for a hotel somewhere to put that individual in."

Jay Chaudhary is the director of the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction. He said Porter-Starke's crisis center is an example of the state's efforts to meet people where they are, with its mental health care system.

"The average time it takes for somebody to seek care for mental health is about 11 years after those symptoms manifest, right? And it's because the system right now does not catch people. It does not have that big 'no wrong door' — really one big door . . . to get into, and we're working to change that," Chaudhary said.

The crisis center will have five rooms for adults and another three for children and adolescents. It will give patients a chance to be matched with peer support specialists and to be assessed for further treatment. Porter-Starke officials hope it'll reduce the number of people experiencing a mental health crisis going to the emergency room or ending up in jail.

Tricia Wasil is the crisis center's project director. "I think it's just needed in the community, and it's needed in the county," Wasil said. "We already do it in a similar model now, but it's only during normal business hours. So I think expanding this to a 24/7 model will definitely help in the community."

The crisis center is being funded through grants from the federal government and the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction, with funding help for facility renovations coming out of Porter County's share of federal American Rescue Plan money.