When a mother of two needed to see a doctor for chest pains, doctors at Adult and Child Health also discovered she was dealing with depression.

They immediately connected her with a psychiatrist and set up a long-term plan for treatment, making sure she would continue to receive the care she needed.

By adding primary care to its mental illness and addiction treatment services, officials at Adult and Child say they are better able to treat people suffering from a mental illness or addiction, since getting or maintaining regular health care can be difficult for those patients.

Since Adult and Child began in the 1990s, the nonprofit’s main focus has been on treating mental illness and addiction for adults and children in nine offices across Indianapolis region. But they’ve recently moved to expand their services by adding primary care physicians to address what they see as an unmet need since people with mental illnesses often die much younger due to other untreated health needs.

Story continues below gallery

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

Adult and Child Health spent $1.2 million through a loan to open a second location in Franklin, turning the former Sears Hometown Stores spot at 1860 Northwood Plaza Drive into their an office for mental health, addiction, and now, routine family health services.

Since 2014, the number of patients Adult and Child has treated for addiction and mental issues in Johnson County has grown by 39 percent. That number likely will continue to rise with the addition of primary care treatment. Five primary care providers are expected to have 4,500 appointments in 2017.

The 14,000-square-foot building allowed Adult and Child to bring in primary care providers, and will provide room for future growth for its addiction and mental health treatment as well, Adult and Child Director of Community Health Dan Arens said.

So far, they’ve had more than 500 appointments with their primary care physicans since the facility opened in December, Arens said.

People who suffer from mental illnesses or addiction are significantly less likely to be getting the proper medical care they need, he said. Research shows that people who suffer from a chronic illness, such as diabetes, have a lifespan that is 25 years shorter if they also suffer from a mental illness, he said.

Sometimes a person isn’t capable of understanding or following a treatment plan. They could be unemployed or disabled and unable to afford health insurance. Or they could be avoiding going to the doctor due to the stigma of talking about their illness, Arens said.

By providing primary care physicians on-site, along with the mental health and addiction treatment, it allows staff to make immediate referrals if they a patient has additional needs, he said.

More than half of the patients Adult and Child sees in Johnson County are under the age of 18. Therapists work with children individually and will coordinate care between physicians and mental health specialists and make sure parents and school employees are aware of the child’s needs, Arens said.

Another problem is the lack of communication and coordination between patients’ primary care physicians and their mental health providers, Arens said. By offering all of those services in the same building, providers are a brief walk from each other, he said.

All of the primary care physicians go through training to recognize mental health issues, and if they see a patient in need of that treatment, they can make a referral and have them seen the same day. If a psychiatrist is working with a patient that also needs to get treatment for an injury or illness, they can be checked out by a physician as well, Arens said.

About 80 percent of the patients they see are covered by Medicaid, about 20 percent pay through private insurance, and the rest self-pay.

If patients don’t have insurance or Medicaid and want help getting it, navigators can walk them through the process of getting coverage, said Britney Veach, the director of mission advancement at Adult and Child Health.

If a patient isn’t interested or able to get insurance, Adult and Child can cover the cost of anywhere from 20 to 100 percent of the treatment, depending on the patient’s income, she said.

By the numbers

The number of patients Adult and Child Health sees in Johnson County has risen steadily each year.

2014: 1,765

2015: 1,932

2016: 2,459

Source: Adult and Child Health

Author photo
Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.