New era of healthcare

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Healthcare, especially mental health service, will have a new look in about a year.

Representatives of Horizon Health and the Human Resources Center of Edgar and Clark Counties gathered briefly for a groundbreaking ceremony between downpours Thursday, April 18, near the HRC facility behind Paris Community Hospital. The two organizations are partnering to build a Life Center on the Horizon Health Campus that will serve the needs of Horizon Health’s Senior Care program, and improve HRC’s ability to provide emergency response to people experiencing a mental health crisis.

Ollie Smith, Horizon Health CEO, said the new structure, which should open in the spring of 2020, is designed with expansion in mind. Half of the main floor will house Senior Care.

This is a Medicare funded outpatient program for senior citizens with mental health needs. Smith said Horizon Health currently rents space in Verona Mall for Senior Care but it is not big enough to meet the demand for service.

“We typically have 23 to 24 patients,” said Smith. “They more or less graduate from the program as they improve, and others come in.”

Horizon Health also has a psychiatrist that visits on a regular basis to oversee Senior Care.

The expansion possibility is because the building is designed with a basement. Smith said no plans exist at the moment to utillize the basement but it will be available for future use as a need arises.

HRC will occupy the other half of the Life Center’s ground floor with offices for therapists to see patients and a 24-hour crisis center to provide a place where someone experiencing a mental health crisis can receive immediate care.

“We are seeing more mental health patients in the ER, and we are ill-equipped for that,” said Smith, adding the mental health side is important to Horizon Health and working with HRC provides the best options for the community.

The idea of having a building equipped with a crisis center located near the hospital has long been a goal of HRC. It was one of the key components of a capital campaign HRC started approximately five years ago, with a plan to put the building on property HRC owns adjacent to the hospital.

“We wanted the clinicians close to the hospital and a crisis center to serve the hospital,” said Ken Polky, HRC Executive Director.

According to Polky, the only difference between the Life Center Horizon Health plans to build and HRC’s original idea is a matter of ownership. He said five years ago HRC planned to construct the building and rent space to Senior Care. The current approach means Horizon Health owns the building and rents space to HRC.

Who owns the building is of less importance to Polky than what the joint effort can accomplish.

“The end result is more comprehensive health care for the people both entities serve,” said Polky.

He added Horizon Health has always supported the idea of having a staffed crisis center nearby when somebody arrives at the ER experiencing a mental health issue but does not have anything medically wrong that physicians can treat.

Polky said it is critical that what he describes as a soft handoff is available between the ER and the HRC staff. It means the person coping with a mental health crisis has a safe and calm place while counselors work toward a satisfactory next step in treatment – whether that is in-patient at another facility or doing outpatient counseling locally.

“The crisis component is a critical part of the Life Center,” said Polky. “It is a more satisfactory treatment option than jail or the ER.”

Both health care providers regard the need as so important discussion about staffing the crisis center will begin before the new building is finished. The goal, Polky said, is to have the center staffed and ready to operate the day the building opens.

The new Life Center means HRC will eventually vacate the facility at 118 E. Court in the former Hotel France. Part of the staff will be located at the Horizon Health Life Center, and others are already working out of the remodeled Forsythe Center HRC moved into last year at Marshall.

Polky said it is too early in the process to know the eventual use of the old hotel although a couple of developers have already looked at the property.