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Bowen Center assesses Covid-19 response
Warsaw, IN
05/12/2020 09:35 AM

There was no scramble to figure out a way. Bowen Center, the largest Community Mental Health Center in the state had been preparing for a situation just like that for several years. The infrastructure, policies and procedures were already in place. 


Outside of its 16-bed acute psychiatric hospital, methadone clinic, group homes and medical clinics, each of which require direct patient care, Bowen Center employees were already equipped to work from their homes providing psychiatric care, therapy and skills coaching (case management) to their patients virtually, without risking COVID-19 infection or disruption of services. Consequently, the Center was able to hit the ground running and it hasn’t looked back.


Because Bowen Center is agile it has been able to provide services at a time of great vulnerability for its patients when they need greater support and employees have been able to emphasize the gravity of this extraordinarily contagious disease and appropriate precautions to help keep patients safe. 


During this time Bowen Center has also expanded to serve patients throughout the state and help meet the growing need. Bowen Center is grateful to Governor Holcomb, Secretary Sullivan of the Indiana Family of Social Services Administration and Jay Chaudhary and Rachel Halleck of the Division of Mental Health and Addiction for removing barriers to make it easier for Bowen Center to serve the Hoosier state’s most vulnerable residents during this challenging time. 


Successes have been many and are shared by Bowen Center staff daily as a means to inspire, encourage, and share ideas. Here are a few:


Skills Coaches report patients are excited to be able to continue meeting by phone and video conference. The Skills Coaches are creatively teaching persons with mental illness basic life skills. The Skills Coaches are connecting patients to insurance navigators, housing, transportation, food and utilities assistance. They’re helping patients cope with job loss and providing help filling out unemployment applications. Skills coaches who normally work in the classroom with patients are now assisting them with E-learning. Homebound patients are grateful for human connections over the phone. Patients report that virtual appointments are helpful, lower anxiety and provide a renewed sense of hope. Skills Coaches report better insight into their patients’ lives and struggles which helps them build deeper rapport and provide more support.


Group Therapy sessions via phone and video conference are much more interactive because patients now have to rely more on verbal communication instead of visual cues. Patients report the sessions being beneficial and, in some cases, more valuable than in-person sessions.

Psychiatric Services via phone and video conference conducted by Psychiatrists and Nurse Practitioners report the average “show rate” for appointments as higher than the traditional face-to-face “show rate”. Clinicians enjoy connecting on a different level and patients report sessions as beneficial.


Outpatient Therapy Services by phone or video conference conducted by Therapists have an average “show rate” higher than the traditional/average rate of kept appointments. Some report a record high for patients showing up for appointments. Patients report relief that they can continue their sessions, and most find them just as beneficial and in some cases more so than in-person appointments.


Bowen Recovery Center (methadone clinic) is still operating as normal with strict attention to sanitization, social distancing, masks, handwashing and patient screening. The state of Indiana has relaxed a wide variety of restrictions, including qualifying more patients for take-home medication. Addiction counselors are also meeting more frequently with patients by phone and report higher engagement and more patients maintaining sobriety than ever before because of the increase in supportive phone interactions and access to take-home medication. 


Our Psychiatric Inpatient Unit operations are normal with the addition of increased disinfecting of all surfaces, masks, patient screening, handwashing and social distancing measures. Staff work with patients as they prepare for discharge to adjust to the COVID-19 challenges once they are back out in the community.


Group home facilities are operating as normal with increased infection prevention control measures. Because patients are limited in their community visits, staff are adding more creative activities to the residents’ daily routines.


Autism Services by phone and video conference have some patients who struggle with social anxiety experiencing a much higher comfort level with the social distancing approach to services and Bowen Center staff help teach parents the best way to structure days now being spent at home. 


Registration and scheduling staff and phone nurses report patients continually express relief that they can continue their treatment without interruption.


Human Resources is actively hiring new employees and hopes to add more than 60 new employees in the coming weeks. The entire interviewing, hiring, orientation and training process is being done virtually.


In this uncertain time, Bowen Center has been able to meet the challenges head-on by treating patients without disruption using a successful model that includes telephonic service options for therapy and case management. It is Bowen Center’s hope that approval for those telephonic services will be made permanent after the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders end to ensure access to anyone who needs emotional health care in the state of Indiana.

Claudia Johnson
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