PEORIA — Peoria Heights resident Tamra Antenanucci is one of many residents who have fallen through the cracks in the network of mental health services.
She struggled to get help for herself and her 15-year-old son.
“I was told it would take 12 to 15 months to get him to a real psychiatrist,” she said. They work with teens to get the resources they need.She sent me a list of different resources for children with autism and ADHD.Medicaid All those taking the drug had been waiting in Peoria for 12 months.There have been many cases where the wait was only a week, but that’s a question of whether you have really good insurance or if you can afford to pay the full amount. It was a condition.”
Antenucci isn’t sure if he has to wait 12-15 months.
“His school calls me almost daily saying he’s having a meltdown, or being rebellious or being overstimulated. And a lot of the time, we can’t even get him to go to school.” she said. “My son isn’t usually like this and something is going on. I hate seeing him struggle.”
The most vulnerable people are at risk
Long wait times are typical for mental health services in Peoria. Peoria, like communities across the United States, has been affected by a nationwide psychiatrist shortage. According to statista.com, there will only be 480 psychiatrists in the entire state of Illinois in 2021. And, as is often the case, Medicaid recipients have fewer options.
“Our most vulnerable people are not being cared for,” said Kim Keenan, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in psychiatry. this will happen here. Mind you, when something goes down, everyone thinks, “Where is our service? What are we doing?” And it comes as no surprise to any of us who have been doing it for a long time. ”
Those with financial means and health insurance can get the help they need, but they may have to leave the area. But those who don’t have insurance or who have Medicaid are slipping through the cracks in the system, Keenan said. As director of her Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic program at UnityPlace, she worked specifically with low-income people before she left her job in May.
Keenan has cited a nationwide shortage of psychiatrists as a key factor in the problem, but she said problems within UnityPlace, UnityPoint Health’s behavioral health arm, are exacerbating the problem. .
UnityPoint Health has been a hub for mental health services in central Illinois for many years. There are currently 39 programs, including outpatient programs, community-based programs, residential centers and hospital beds. While there was a lot of fanfare when he worked with Four Wellness in 2019 at the Center for Human Services and Tayswood Center, Keenan says the venture’s results were less than optimal.
“When they put those organizations together, that’s when we saw the first collapse,” she said. “They hired a president who was only there for about 18 months, and he pretty much revamped the entire senior management ranks.”
Administrative issues have led to poor employee retention and negatively impacted patient care, said Keenan, who has been working with behavioral health in central Illinois for more than 20 years. She quit her job at UnityPlace after about six months out of frustration. She currently works for OSF HealthCare.
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A representative for UnityPoint Health declined to discuss personnel issues, but Mary Sparks Thompson, president of UnityPlace, said the company is committed to hiring additional behavioral health staff. Thompson said in January that she would become president of UnityPlace, a position that had been vacant since Ted Bender stepped down from her in June 2021.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into recruiting from our psychiatric residency programs, and we’re seeing some success in that regard,” Thompson said. had some benefactors locally in our community.”
The behavioral health industry faces many challenges nationwide, said Thompson.
“We don’t have enough people to provide services, from entry-level staff all the way to psychiatric colleagues,” she said.
The challenges facing behavioral health facilities are complex, says Thompson.
“In the 1970s, state hospitals were under-bedded to serve the community. This was a laudable goal, but there were enough beds in the community and not enough inpatient services. We haven’t been able to offset that, there’s a build-up of demand for these services,” she said. And that’s a difficult type of service to run. It’s very different from running a medical operating room. For example, different staffing needs, slightly different patient populations, and different care delivery. This can create additional challenges for hospitals in some cases. ”
Dr. Sam Sears, a psychiatrist and director of Behavioral Health Physician Services at OSF HealthCare, is critical of the treatment of Illinois’ major psychiatric services.
“I think few states have abandoned state support for mental health inpatient services more than Illinois.” Budget Cuts. “There are still facilities around the state, but most of the beds the state still operates are purely forensic psychiatric hospitals for people in the criminal justice system being evaluated for their ability to stand trial. Beds.There are still some facilities in the state.Private beds, but at the moment the majority of beds are forensic beds.”
Given all the challenges the industry already faces, the pandemic has only made things worse, Sears said.
“Basically, we started with a slight apocalypse in the world of mental health, then a pandemic,” he said. Rates of anxiety, depression, and substance use problems increased.”
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through 2021 reveal a 30% to 40% increase in these mental health problems, Sears said.
“The most frightening statistic that came out of it was for the general adult population: 1 in 10 had seriously considered suicide in the previous month, and closer to 1 in 4 or 5 children. ”
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a faint hope
Both OSF HealthCare and UnityPoint Health are working to address the shortage of behavioral health services by opening new facilities in central Illinois.
In October, OSF announced plans to partner with US HealthVest to build a 100-bed behavioral health hospital in North Peoria. The facility is scheduled to open in late 2024 or early 2025. Only UnityPoint Health has inpatient psychiatric services in Peoria, forcing many to leave the area for treatment.
“Given that Methodists are always full of their own patients, the 50 to 60 patients we send out each month are basically going to Bloomington-Normal, Champaign, Ottawa, Dixon, or Chicagoland. Anywhere there’s a bed available, people still wait days to find an available bed,” says Sears.
The new hospital will also attract more medical professionals specializing in psychiatric care to central Illinois. US HealthVest has an excellent track record in keeping facilities staffed. Since this is a for-profit hospital system, the nonprofit can offer higher salaries than OSF HealthCare, Sears said.
“Nonprofits have standards that must be paid based on standardized fair market value, limiting how high cash rewards can be without jeopardizing their nonprofit status. “If it’s for profit, you can pay whatever the market actually demands to get individuals to say ‘yes.’ We are doing very well in terms of being able to put our providers in place.”
UnityPoint Health has opened a new facility at the old Headington Oaks Nursing Home in West Peoria with a focus on children and adolescent care. The Young Minds Program provides much-needed beds for inpatient care. Over the past five years, 2,600 of her children seeking inpatient services at Methodist Medical Center have had to leave the area to receive the care they need. The new facility will also offer many outpatient services.
Ensuring that residents of central Illinois receive the services they need without leaving their homes is a key goal of both projects. Ultimately, Sears said, the results would definitely be better.
“We know that the more local you are, the better the continuity of care.” I know.”
Leslie Renken can be reached at (309) 370-5087 or email@example.com. Follow her at her Facebook.com/leslie.renken.