Evansville Psychiatric Children’s Center could move to Evansville State Hospital

DMHA tours center, says process is in early stages

Evansville Psychiatric Children’s Center could be moving

EVANSVILLE (WFIE) - The Evansville Psychiatriac Children’s Center could be moving. After 52 years at its Morgan Avenue campus, it might soon be calling the Evansville State Hospital home.

The EPCC is the only one of its kind in the state, caring for children between the ages of 6 and 12 with serious psychological problems. The Division of Mental Health and Addiction is considering relocating it to the Evansville State Hospital, citing efficiency.

Senator Vaneta Becker disagrees.

“We already have efficiencies when it comes to laundry, when it comes to pharmacy, when it comes to food," says Sen. Becker. "Their doctors are not accredited to treat these children.”

Sen. Becker advocates for the EPCC and says they have managed to operate efficiently with the same budget for the past 10 years. She is calling for a study comparing the cost of moving to the cost of renovating and expanding.

Sen. Becker is concerned about the kids losing all of the green space.

“I love the trees out here and the opportunity for kids to ride horse back and to swim in the swimming pool and to play on their playground, and I would want that to be comparable if we move the facility over there,” says Sen. Becker.

Mark Newell is the Deputy Director of the DMHA. He plans to include the EPCC’s staff in the process.

Newell says they are a long way off from deciding on the EPCC’s direction.

“Our goal would be to expand services and improve accessibility, especially in this part of the state," says Newell. "I think there’s a lot of discussion that needs to happen and studies that need to be done.”

Newell notes more resources would be needed to continue with these studies and discussions.

“We have an opportunity to make this gem sparkle in the future, and I hope we will utilize that,” says Sen. Becker.

Sen. Becker is also stressing the importance of filling the superintendent position at the center as soon as possible. It has been open for 10 months now.

The DMHA plans to fill it soon.

EPCC Medical Director Shannon Jones says they have revamped the program in the last 10 years. They used a grant from the federal government to completely change their behavior modification system to make it more evidence-based.

“That along with other changes like bringing in an occupational therapist and changing some of our environment of care has allowed us to reduce lengths of stay from an average of about 12.5 months 10 years ago to just 5.5 months today,” says Jones.

The grant was aimed at reducing seclusion and restraint. They have reduced restraint by 95% and eliminated seclusion.

Jones says most of the children have been traumatized, exposed to alcohol and drugs in utero, abuse and neglect, and other ill-treatment.

Jones says a common treatment practice is prescribing antipsychotic medication, which she says has increased more than 500% in the last 20 years.

“More than 80 percent of the children that present to care here are on an antipsychotic medication when they come. Less than 10% are needing an antipsychotic medication when they leave,” says Jones.

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