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Southern Indiana Mental Health Providers Launch Series Of Public Discussions

Dr. Eric Yazel is in front of a cart of supplies at the Clark County Health Department's syringe exchange program.
Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel explains the different services the county's syringe exchange program offers in this 2020 file photo. The Clark County Commissioners have just extended the program through July 2024.

The newly-reformed Clark County Crisis Intervention Team is hosting the first in a series of roundtable discussions in Southern Indiana this week.

The inaugural meeting will focus on depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) coordinator Amanda Beam said she hopes the gathering can help people who have experienced depression better understand their feelings and establish a support system.

“Humans are social creatures, and when you take out being able to even go to the store, to see neighbors, to gather in settings that you can share, it’s going to affect how folks not only see things, but deal with the world and their own thoughts and their own behaviors,” she said. “I think that's what really exacerbated things that were already there for many people, and to some people, this could be very new.”

LifeSpring Health Systems, a treatment provider in Southern Indiana, is sponsoring the free event. Social workers and executives from LifeSpring, along with Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel, will help lead the discussion.

Yazel said in a statement that the pandemic revealed gaps in the health care system.

“Depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, and other decompensated mental illnesses immediately came to the forefront,” he said. “Not just an increase in prevalence, but issues with stigma in seeking help, access to care, and so many other issues. I am excited to be part of these community discussions that are so sorely needed.”

Clark County Judge Dan Moore originally implemented the CIT program during his first term in 2009. He reimplemented the program this summer.

It establishes a partnership between LifeSpring and local law enforcement to assist on 911 calls that involve mental health crises or substance use. A team of four social workers and peer recovery specialists from LifeSpring will work alongside specially-trained officers from law enforcement agencies in Clark County. Officers in the program will take part in a 40-hour training session.

But Beam said the changes in policing, including jail diversion programs, is only one aspect of the CIT. The other goal is to remove the stigma around discussing mental health.

“We really want to bring to the community a forum that they can learn from and that they can be a part of and ask questions and hopefully get some resources to improve their lives and their well-being,” Beam said. “Everyone deserves to feel better, everyone deserves to be happy.”

The roundtable on mental health will start at 6 p.m. Thursday at 404 Spring Street in Jeffersonville. Beam said CIT officials hope to host additional discussions about intimate partner violence and bipolar disorder in the coming months.

John, News Editor for LPM, is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Email John at jboyle@lpm.org.