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Franciscan Health 'EmPATH' unit seeing increase in mental health patients

While Franciscan Health is seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients, it's also seeing an increase in patients needing mental health services.

Posted: May 22, 2020 7:55 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — While Franciscan Health is seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients, it's also seeing an increase in patients needing mental health services.

Hospital leaders said this increase in mental-health patients could be linked to living in these uncertain times. They're seeing everything from patients struggling with isolation, to people dealing with losing their job or a loved one to the virus. But right now the hospital is mainly working with patients who haven't been taking their medication.

"It seems as though our increase in patients is psychotic patients so that often happens when medications aren't being taken properly or being taken at all," said Leah Abbott, Franciscan Health's Manager of Behavioral Health Western Indiana.

Abbott said getting medication and making regular hospital visits hasn't been easy lately. And she said it's like a ripple effect, as the pandemic creates a new normal for society, people are struggling to adjust.

"Patients were nervous to come here to the hospital because of COVID," said Abbott. "What we're seeing now are patients coming in, they've stayed home longer because they're nervous to come to the hospital but when they come in they're sicker."

When patients come to Franciscan Health for psychiatric help, they're admitted to EmPATH, which stands for Emergency Psychiatric Assessment Treatment and Healing. Franciscan in Lafayette is the first in the state of Indiana to implement an entire unit for mental health crises. Mental Health America Wabash Valley Region works closely with this program. CEO Brandi Christiansen said there is a positive side to this increase in patients.

"We're so proud of the individuals that take the courage to call. We're grateful that they're reaching out for help," said Christiansen.

Christiansen said calls to the organization's crisis hotline have more than doubled, compared to this time last year

"As we're going on we're seeing more and more people that are experiencing these symptoms of anxiety and depression, which is completely understandable under the circumstances," said Christiansen.

Abbott said there are a few characteristics to look for, if you or someone you know are struggling.

"More depressed, more anxious, isolative, withdrawn, if you're out of your medications, if you're having obsessive or compulsive thoughts or actions, please come to get help," said Christiansen.

Mental Health Resources in Tippecanoe County: 

Franciscan Health "EmPATH" Program 

Mental Health America Wabash Valley Region 

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