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home : most recent : porter August 18, 2018


5/2/2018 6:11:00 PM
Northwest Indiana must confront troubling healthcare statistics, forum panel says
Attendees take notes during a panel at the
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Attendees take notes during a panel at the "State of our Health Road Show" visit to Ivy Tech Community College. (Kyle Telechan / Post Tribune)

Meredith Colias-Pete, Post-Tribune

Northwest Indiana has work to do on a range of troubling healthcare statistics including smoking, infant mortality, obesity and opioid addiction, according to a panel of health professionals.

About 50 people attended the forum Tuesday at Ivy Tech in East Chicago held by the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana — a group co-founded by several health organizations including the Indiana State Medical Association.

Speakers covered a range of topics centering on smoking, obesity, infant mortality and drug addiction.

Regional Mental Health Center President and CEO Robert Krumweld estimated about 13 percent of society struggle with a “serious and persistent” mental health concern.

Among Regional’s clients, poverty and tobacco use were significant issues. After state benefits were deducted, many clients lived on $50 per month from Social Security, he said.

Many of Regional’s clients were also socially isolated. About 25 percent reported they were heavy smokers, he said.

“It’s a real issue for those folks,” he said.

Charlie Geier, Vice President of Impact and Data Solutions for the Indiana Youth Institute (IYI), said the state’s opioid crisis was deeply impacting an already strained social service and foster care system.

A recent KIDS COUNT report put out by the organization and the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked Indiana 28th overall in child well-being and 35th in health outcomes for children.

According to the report, Indiana ranked 47th in child maltreatment, 43rd in youth in juvenile detention, 42nd in infant mortality, 37th in child and teen deaths and 31st in child poverty, he said.

Infant mortality continued to be a high concern, particularly for African-American children. In 2016, the African-American child mortality rate was 14.4 per 1,000 births, nearly 2.5 times higher than white children in the state, he said.

Geier estimated nearly 1 in 10 children lived with someone with a drug addiction, according to information cited from the Indiana State Department of Health.

In 2016, more than 1,500 people died from drug overdoses in Indiana, he said. Statewide, opioid overdose deaths have risen by 126 percent over five years, he said.

Effects for children included increased risk of being born with a drug addiction and more likely to face neglect in the home.

“If the parent is struggling with opioids, the child is the hidden victim,” he said.

Indiana Department of Child Services statistics showed an increase in the number of cases where children were removed from homes due to a parent drug/alcohol addiction. It increased to 52.2 percent in 2016 from 31.7 percent in 2013, according to DCS figures.

Goodwill Industries Nurse-Family Partnership Lake County Nurse Supervisor Tameka Warren echoed many of Geier’s comments, saying the area needed to do more to tackle higher infant mortality rates.

Overall in Lake County, infant mortality rates were 8.7 percent in 2016, compared to 7.5 percent in Indiana and 5.9 percent nationally.

The forum also featured a brief panel discussing healthcare challenges that included Dr. Patrick Bankston, outgoing dean at the IU School of Medicine-Northwest, Michael Meska, administrative director for Respiratory Therapy at Franciscan Alliance, and Gary Olund, president of Northwest Indiana Community Action.

Alliance for a Healthier Indiana plans to hold a series of similar forums around the state including one at Indiana University Northwest’s Bergland Auditorium on Wednesday featuring several officials from Methodist Hospitals.

Related Stories:
• New opioid treatment center opens its doors in Terre Haute
• New IU study: Opioid epidemic to cost state $4 billion in 2018
• IU study: In 2016, potential lost wages due to opioid misuse totaled $752 million

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