Regional Mental Health Center: Robert Krumwied, Chief Executive Officer

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In 2009, Regional Mental Health Center was formed from the consolidation of Southlake Center for Mental Health and Tri-City Community Mental Health Center. Since then, it has developed over a dozen locations in Lake County, Ind.

Having 350 employees and a $35-$36 million a year budget, Regional is a full-service community mental health center that provides integrated care services for its clients. In fact, it is this integrated model of bringing physical wellness into the mental-health treatment process that has gotten it recognition as one of the foremost practitioners of mental healthcare in the country.

With five group homes, approximately 90 HUD independent living apartments, four different outpatient sites that employ 30 staff psychologists and social workers, a few residential care units, a licensed 16-bed inpatient unit, 13 employed psychiatrists and one general practitioner, Regional approaches its mission with enthusiasm, innovation, and above all, compassion.

A caring leader, a seasoned staff

When discussing mental healthcare of the sort that Regional provides, the values that its leader possesses are of great importance. Robert Krumwied, chief executive officer, was the CEO of Tri-City before the consolidation and brings 22 years worth of mental-healthcare experience to Regional.

Above all, he believes that it is important for people in this niche of healthcare to possess an appreciation and a respect for the individuals they are treating.

“In everything we do, we want to be sure that we are inclusive and informative of the clients’ desires, needs, and wants,” Krumwied said. “The consumer has to be a partner in the course of their treatment if we’re going to get the kind of outcomes that we want.”

Regional has a bifurcated staff where about 20 percent are over the age of 58 and 20 percent are under the age of 30, “an industry phenomena,” according to Krumwied. However, this age diversity is also an opportunity to relate to clients on a more personal basis, especially since the most seasoned members of the staff know what it’s like to receive healthcare.

“We just can’t do things to folks; we have to do things with folks,” Krumwied explained. “And especially in this business if we want the kind of outcomes that we truly want, if we really want these folks to do well in the community and live independently and achieve the quality of life that we all strive for. They’ve got to understand what’s going on and we have to have complete transparency in everything we do with folks. That’s the value that we’re trying to instill with our staff now, and we’re making some real progress in that regard.”

Everyone recognizes the wisdom of this approach, he added, but it’s not the traditional manner in which mental healthcare is delivered.

An integrated environment of care

“This has been a really tough environment for the last couple of years, with dwindling support from the state system, with dwindling support from the federal government system,” Krumwied observed.

In Indiana, the state went through a fairly significant change in the Medicaid services that were available through mental-health providers. These changes curtailed some of Regional’s funding resources, forcing the organization to close a group home and downsize a day-treatment program.

However, Krumwied said as Regional downsizes in one area, it’s trying to improve and increase services in another area through alternative funding sources. The focus here is on integrating care services by bringing primary-care providers into the mental-health facilities to treat chronically mentally ill clients who can’t run the healthcare maze efficiently. Some clients never even see their healthcare providers for preventative measures.

“They get scared away by the cost,” Krumwied explained. “They get scared away by the bureaucracy. They get scared away by the unknowns. Their level of understanding of the system is not nearly as sophisticated as ours, and it’s intimidating even to us.”

By bringing care in-house, Regional is trying to care for its clients’ physical and mental well-being. Krumwied is candid in recognizing that for years, mental health was a partner in some of the physical ailments these clients have. In some cases, the prescribed medications and lack of physical-activity alternatives may have even contributed to these ailments.

“Our lack of attention to their physical wellness for the last 20 years means that the vast majority of our chronically mentally ill patients have a pretty serious attendant physical problem along with it now,” he stated, listing diabetes, heart problems, and obesity as a few of the issues.

Regional is also doing a lot of work with children’s services, trying to keep the children with mental-health needs out of residential placement. As Krumwied explained it, they’re trying to wrap services around the child, keeping them in their community, in their natural environment, as opposed to taking them out of it for prolonged periods of time and expecting to seamlessly reintegrate them into society later on, automatically making up for years of education lost.

“We spent a lot of time recently working with school corporations and welfare folks, working with them on the significant problems presented by kids while keeping them in the community and while keeping their families intact,” Krumwied said. “We’re making a lot of headway in that regard.”

A mystery no longer

By bringing physical-care services in-house, including a pharmacy on-site, Krumwied believes they have made the entire spectrum of care needed by all of their clients easier to manage. No longer does he have to leave work only to find a prescription blowing in the wind where a client dropped it as they were going to their car.

“We’re trying to make life as simple as possible for them to get the same things done that we do on a daily basis so they can see what a difference this makes for them,” he said, adding that the outcomes have been amazing, with weight loss and diabetes management all showing signs of improvement.

“We’re really into making this thing totally transparent, taking the mystery out of mental-health services for folks and truly bringing them into a partnership with us.”

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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