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Mental Health Summit explores more effective ways to help

The Evening News and The Tribune - 9/6/2023

Sep. 6—NEW ALBANYThe Floyd County Justice Reinvestment Advisory Council met Wednesday for its Mental Health and Addiction Summit and heard from keynote speaker Suzanne Crouch, Indiana's lieutenant governor and a candidate for governor on the Republican ticket.

Other speakers at the summit at Indiana University Southeast reported on and explained the impact of the drug and mental illness epidemic on the Clark and Floyd counties community.

To help with these problems on a statewide scale, Crouch said she wants to work on removing the shame and stigma that comes with speaking out on mental health and addiction struggles.

"It's OK to not be OK, we all deal with it. It's a part of being human," Crouch said. "The only way we can get help to those that are struggling is by coming together and sharing our stories and working to make it better to those who are struggling."

Crouch said when she was about five years old, she asked her dad where her mom was. He told her that she went to the doctor to get her nerve medicine. Crouch did not know what that meant, but she knew that her mother was ill.

At the time, she did not know that her mother was struggling with mental illness. It was not until she was a young adult that she realized that her mom was living with a mental illness, Crouch said.

Her sister also struggled with mental illness and committed suicide in her early 20s. Her brother also lived with mental illness and was an alcoholic and died from it last year.

Crouch is collaborating with state agencies to offer a recovery housing program for communities so they can build new housing for those who need it. She also advocated a recent legislative bill that passed and will provide $100 million to the 988 Suicide Hotline.

"We all struggle at some point in time in our lives, sometimes many times in our lives, that's why it's called life," Crouch said. "It isn't a sign of weakness, but it's a sign of strength."

Rebecca Didelot, Baptist Health's co-coordinator of healthier communities initiative, coordinates and facilitate the suicide and overdose fatality review team, which was created to help reduce the number of deaths caused by suicide and overdose in Floyd County.

"This is a multi-disciplinary team that comes together every other month," Didelot said. "We take a person-center approach, we speak about these individuals as individuals. We show pictures of them, we discuss them."

When they discuss the individual, they take a timeline approach and look at birth to death. By using this approach they can see where there were gaps or barriers in their services to try to determine if they can help prevent other deaths.

This year, Floyd County had seven suicides, eight alcohol deaths and 25 drug deaths. Last year, the county had 18 suicides, 21 alcohol deaths and 39 drug deaths.

Some recommendations the group has to decrease the number of deaths are to have more peer recovery services or hospitals, training of abuse or neglect, early identification referrals, more support for the divorced and widowed community and connecting substance use disorder with local employees.

"These issues impact almost everyone in some fashion or form, whether it be them personally, their family friends or co-workers," said Carrie Stiller, Floyd Count Superior Court No. 1 Judge.

When she took the position in Jan. 2021, she had people before her plead to be sent to get treatment for their drug addiction.

"(Defendants would say) Judge, don't let me out of jail, I'll just go back and I'll be right back here," Stiller said. "I was told 'I have nowhere to go, I'm just going to go back where I came from. That's the world of drugs and that's all I know.'"

When she would leave the courtroom, Stiller said, and go back to her car, she would see the people leave the jail and return to the life they had always lived.

At the last review of the Floyd County Court statistics, criminal case filings are up 25% this year when compared to last year. The juvenile delinquency cases were up 30% when compared to last year, Stiller said.

"One comment that was made was that your local jail is, for most counties, your primary mental health facility," Stiller said. "That's a problem, because that is not what the jail is for, nor do they have the resources to deal with that."


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