LAFAYETTE — An already limited number of mental health services in Tippecanoe and surrounding counties have been stretched thin by an addiction crisis sweeping Indiana, according to authorities.
But an influx of resources over the course of the next year could vastly change Greater Lafayette's mental health landscape.
Purdue University School of Nursing announced this week the addition of a mental health nurse practitioner program, slated to roll out by the summer of 2018, which could nearly double the number of professionals in that field who work in Indiana.
Purdue professor Nancy Edwards said in a news release that the program should alleviate a shortage of mental health professionals because 80 percent of Purdue's nurse practitioner graduates go on to work in Indiana.
The program was funded by a $734,383 grant from North Central Health Services, which operates River Bend Hospital in West Lafayette.
"The need for substance abuse programs and treatment for substance abuse certainly has an effect on the number of mental health care practitioners that are needed to serve the patient population," said Stephanie Long, president of North Central Health Services.
In 2014, Tippecanoe and six surrounding counties were designated mental health professional shortage areas, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
To put it in perspective, one licensed mental health provider exists for every 784 residents in Tippecanoe County, which is slightly below the state average, according to statistics provided by the Indiana Youth Institute.