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The Journal Gazette

November 04, 2016 1:02 AM

Minding health

Help available for struggling Hoosiers

Paths to hope

• Mental Health America of Northeast Indiana, 422-6441

• The Lutheran Foundation, www.lookupindiana.org or 1-800-284-8439

For the last three years, Mental Health America has ranked every state on several mental health and access measures.

In the first survey, using 2011 data and considering such criteria as prevalence of mental illness, access to care and youth mental health problems, the association listed Indiana as 19th – just two points below Illinois, and above Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky.

But in the next survey, Indiana plummeted to 44th; and in the latest survey released this week, covering 2014 statistics, our state was ranked 45th – just below West Virginia and Mississippi and just above Alabama and Arkansas. In a subranking measuring only adult mental illness and access factors, Indiana came in 47th.

Audrea Mummo, communications coordinator for Mental Health America of Northeast Indiana, said Wednesday she wasn’t sure why Indiana fell so far in a three-year period.

But simply raising awareness of the problem and the options for treatment could help, Mummo said. “There are still a lot of misconceptions about mental illness,” she said. “There’s a negative storyline based on how people used to be treated.”

MHA’s Northeast Indiana office helps make people aware of the range of treatment options that are available, and it connects callers with other agencies including Park Center, the Bowen Center and Parkview Behavioral Health. “People call us when they don’t know what resources are available and who they can turn to,” Mummo said.

Marcia Haaff, CEO of The Lutheran Foundation, suggested Indiana’s poor ranking in the survey is directly linked to the opioid/heroin crisis. She noted Indiana’s particularly high incidence of pharmacy robberies, painkiller prescriptions and drug-poisoning deaths, as well as of teens considering suicide.

“Eighty percent of Indiana employers have observed prescription drug misuse by their employees,” Haaff said.

Drug problems were among the factors the MHA considered in its rankings, she noted. “There’s a really strong correlation” between drug and mental health problems, Haaff said, and often the mental illness can’t be treated without dealing first with drug addiction.

“You have to understand,” Haaff said, “that addiction and mental illness are brain disorders. We have to reduce the stigma” of seeking treatment.

A 2013 study of mental health and behavioral issues throughout the region by the Lutheran Foundation showed a major problem is that people don’t know how to find the information and help they need.

Since then, the foundation has launched LookUp, which includes a website and text and chat lines to help people find that help. “We want our community to know that there’s one place to go for mental and behavioral health resources,” Haaff said.

“The Lutheran Foundation is investing in this resource,” she said. “Our slogan is ‘healing our community with hope.’ ”