GARY — Mental health care is expanding in one of the Northwest Indiana communities that needs it most.

Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary is set to soon offer outpatient behavioral health treatment, and has adolescent, adult and geriatric inpatient units that are open for business.

"Ideally what we would like to do is have the full continuum of care," said Sue Heaton, director of outpatient counseling for Methodist Hospitals.

The federal government has designated Gary as having a shortage of mental health providers. In a recent community survey, Methodist Hospitals identified mental health care as one of the greatest health needs in Gary and Merrillville.

The inpatient psych unit features six beds for kids between 13 and 17 years old, 16 beds for those 18-54, and 12 beds for people 55 and older. The adolescent side is only averaging two patients a day, likely because of an incorrect perception in the community that it had closed.

"We get more stress, depression and suicidal ideation among our adolescents," said Paula Baisden, clinical manager of the behavioral medicine unit at the Gary hospital. "With adults, it's more psychosis and bipolar disorder."

Adolescents can be involuntarily committed by their parents upon expressing a desire to hurt themselves or others. Nowadays, Baisden said, the children's statements are verified by screenshots from social media.

"If kids are showing helplessness and hopelessness, we can see them, too," she said. "We have kids who are having trouble coping with a certain traumatic event that just happened to them."

The adolescent unit features a basketball court, classroom, music therapy, video and board games, arts and crafts and movies.

"Through recreation and leisure, I teach patients to cope with everyday emotions so emotions don't control them," therapist Bill Blake said. "The biggest thing is the patients want to be treated like humans, and that's what we do here."

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Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.