Gov. Pence wants to bring trauma center to Northwest Indiana

June 6, 2013

(WBEZ/Michael Puente)
Indiana Governor Mike Pence thanks members of Northwest Indiana’s legislative caucus for passage of Senate Bill 585. Here he is shaking the hand of Indiana State Sen. Charbonneau. Gary, Indiana Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson (blue) stands behind the governor.

In Northwest Indiana, home to more than 800,000 residents, victims of car accidents or violent crime such as gunshots, often end up having to be transported to Chicago, South Bend or even Indianapolis. That’s because the region has no trauma center of its own.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence soon hopes to change that.

“Our biggest obligation is to see the health and well-being of the people of our state,” Pence told WBEZ during a visit to Gary’s City Hall on Wednesday.

Pence arrived to sign Senate Bill 585. Known as the “Gary Bill,” Senate Bill 585 encompasses a number of provisions to boost economic development in Gary and the surrounding area.

One provision frees up state money to pay for a study to see if Northwest Indiana does indeed need a trauma center.

It’s the first step toward actually establishing one.

“When you look at a map of Indiana, you can see there is a huge void in Northwest Indiana where we have the crossroads of the America a lots of serious (auto) injuries that take place,” said Indiana State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, a Republican from Valparaiso, who supports the idea and was a sponsor of the bill. “It’s critical that we have this study done to determine in fact that the numbers are there. I think most of think that we do.”

Charbonneau says the issue isn’t a question of the quality of care given at local hospitals but the level of care provided, given that some severe injuries require more expertise.

During his visit to Gary City Hall, Pence recognized an Indiana State Trooper who helped save the life of a child recently. The child had difficulty breathing while traveling with her mother in the car.

Had the child suffered injuries from a car accident or gunshot wound, she likely would have been transported to the nearest trauma center -- about 40 miles away in Chicago.

“As we reflected today on some public safety heroes, the most most important obligation we have as a state is to see to the safety and well being of the people of our state,” Pence said.

Proponents say Gary would be the logical place for a trauma center because of its proximity to major highways and a high-crime rate.

Michael Puente covers Northwest Indiana for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @MikePuenteNews.