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Opioid settlement funds being used to create crisis centers in northern Indiana

Oaklawn, a privately owned psychiatric center, is shown in May 2023 in Goshen, Indiana. (Provided Photo/Google Street View)

GOSHEN, Ind. (WISH) — Several northern Indiana city governments will spend part of their allotments from national opioid settlement funds to create a crisis center in Goshen to address mental health, behavioral health and substance abuse.

The funds will expand Oaklawn, a psychiatric health provider, into the crisis center. Plans call for a ground-breaking on the facility in Goshen in October, and the opening of the crisis center by March. The funds also will allow the launch of a two-year Elkhart County mobile crisis team, Oaklawn says.

Money will come from the Elkhart County government, the city governments of Elkhart, Goshen and Nappanee, and the town government of Bristol, a news release issued Wednesday from the Elkhart government says. Officials met in advance of receiving the settlement funds to decide how they could help local residents.

Kelly Liechty, vice president of crisis and access services at Oaklawn, says in the release that the Goshen crisis center will include a walk-in urgent-care center that continuously provides assessments, de-escalation, and follow-up care and services. The center should allow patients to avoid going to a hospital emergency room for help, and let police handle fewer mental health crises, Liechty says.

Goshen, an Elkhart County city with about 34,375 residents, is located about a 45-minute drive southeast of South Bend. Elkhart County has more than 200,000 residents.

The release does not say how much money was allocated from the governments’ settlements for the crisis center, or how much the Oaklawn expansion will cost. Oaklawn previously announced that the state has previously announced it will provided $3.9 million.

“Oaklawn was one of 15 community mental health centers in the state receiving a total $57 million to start or expand such crisis services,” says the previous announcement.

A similar Oaklawn crisis center is under construction at Memorial Epworth Center in South Bend. It is expected to open this winter to serve St. Joseph County, which had nearly 273,000 residents recorded in the 2020 census.

Oakland says its four locations serve 25,000 clients yearly.

Indiana and participating local communities were slated to receive $507 million from the 2022 national opioid settlement totaling $25 billion.

The state also expects to receive $217 million through settlements with two pharmacy chains, CVS and Walgreens, accused of contributing to the opioid epidemic.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, in 2020, an average of 44 people died each day from overdoses involving prescription opioids, totaling more than 16,000 deaths.