Edgewater Health celebrates 5 decades of care • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine

Edgewater Health celebrates 5 decades of care

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Nonprofit helps close gap between mental, physical health

For staff, supporters and community health champions, Gary-based Edgewater Health’s 50th anniversary offers a chance to reflect on its past, present and future.

Edgewater Health is like many organizations around the nation that for a long time had a singular focus. Educator, consultant and event chair Karen Bishop Morris said the full-service clinic has evolved from an institution primarily focused on mental health to one that promotes and supports what she refers to as “whole-person care.”

As a champion for improving overall community well-being, Edgewater Health President and CEO Dr. Danita Johnson credits Dr. Okechi Nwabara for this impactful organizational shift.

“Dr. Okechi Nwabara, former chief medical officer of Edgewater Health, was actually the physician that ushered in primary care,” Johnson said. “He was the one to say, ‘There’s a connection here between mental and physical health, and we shouldn’t ignore it. Instead, we should underscore that connection to provide whole-person care.’”

More recently Edgewater Health has responded to the need to streamline mental health services. Serving the Northwest Indiana area, the Rapid Access Center includes an Immediate Psychiatric Care Center (IPCC) and Subacute Stabilization Unit, all aimed at meeting the needs of those facing a mental health crisis. From a practical standpoint, this model helps decrease the strain placed on other community institutions.

Dr. Danita Johnson
Dr. Danita Johnson
Karen Bishop Morris
Karen Bishop Morris

“Instead of overwhelming the ER or the local lock-up, individuals in crisis go to the rapid access center where they are met with professionals who can assess and diagnose mental health conditions,” Johnson said. “Edgewater provides crisis stabilization and in-patient services so individuals can get the treatment they need in a more compassionate way. So, we’re super proud of this fact because it was a first in the state.”

Every patient’s journey is different, though there are some commonalities regarding demographics. According to Johnson, Edgewater serves 3,000 people a month and 80% identify as people of color. Edgewater treats more women than men and care for people from youth to senior citizens. Whatever the patient’s background, Bishop Morris said the organization is focused on addressing the social determinants of health.

Recent developments have allowed them to serve people in areas outside of Gary. For instance, they have a primary care facility in Griffith, one in Maryville and another in Cedar Lake. Johnson said expansion into these markets has made it possible to serve new and different populations.

Patient Charlene Wright is grateful for the quality of primary care she received. She was impressed with the late Dr. Nwabara’s bedside manner.

“I liked the fact that a physician would still lay hands on and touch you and take your vitals, etc.,” she said. “But what really impressed me was that he never changed (despite his success). He was always the same and always made you feel valued.”

Anecdotes like this help cement the nonprofit’s reputation in the Region.

The organization is marking five decades of care on June 1 at the Duneland Falls Banquet and Meeting Center in Chesterton. According to Bishop Morris, the evening will offer opportunities to share and reflect on their plans for the next 50 years. The event will include a celebration and recognition of leaders who’ve advanced the cause of mental health in the Region and state.

Honoree Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch is being recognized for improving outcomes for one in five Hoosiers and their families who struggle with mental health.

Attorney Kenneth Allen, founder of the Kenneth J. Allen Law Group and Gary native, will be honored for his longstanding service to the community and commitment to advancing education.

Roosevelt Haywood III, principal of Haywood and Fleming Associates, will receive the inaugural Circle of Excellence award during the VIP reception.

Bishop Morris said the fourth and final awards and related presentations are expected to stir up many emotions. Nwabara, who died in 2021, will be honored posthumously with the Spirit of Hope award for his tireless work in bringing the mind-body connection to the forefront of every patient interaction.

Read more stories from the current issue of Northwest Indiana Business Magazine.


  • Lauren Caggiano

    Fort Wayne-based writer Lauren Caggiano is a 2007 graduate of the University of Dayton. She has worked in journalism, public relations, marketing and digital media. She writes for several local (News-Sentinel, Business People, Glo), regional (The Municipal) and national publications (Midwest Living). She also writes for the Visit Fort Wayne blog, which was named Best Multi-Author Blog: Small Business by the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly and Keyflow Creative.


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