Addressing mental health must become priority
Indianapolis should use San Antonio, Texas, as a guide for establishing mental health treatment as a community priority and changing the way it approaches people who are homeless, addicted and need help. “We are incarcerating and re-incarcerating too many people who are mentally ill or addicted but cannot or do not get the treatment they need,” Alex Slabosky wrote in his idea submission. “It should be clear to anyone who takes an honest look at what is happening in our community that mental illness and substance abuse is, for so many people, a devastating and inadequately addressed problem.” In San Antonio, officials have tackled the problem on a number of fronts, sending mental health experts on police calls, and building a crisis center for psychiatric and substance abuse emergencies and a 22-acre campus with housing for people who need it. Bexar County, where San Antonio is located, has also made significant changes in its justice system to keep people with addiction and mental illnesses out of jail and put them into treatment.
Put regional health stats at forefront
The effort to combat COVID-19 has led the Indiana State Department of Health and the Regenstrief Institute to create dashboards that help the public, policymakers and the health care industry track cases, hospitalizations, comorbidities, deaths and more. So what if that same effort went into non-COVID-related health concerns? That was the question posed by John Erickson, Regenstrief’s director of public relations. He proposed using the partnerships formed to collect virus data to do the same for other health concerns. “Dashboards for public health crises such as the opioid epidemic, cardiovascular health or infant mortality could help direct and fuel health improvement activity in central Indiana,” he wrote. “Coalitions targeting health and social problems such as homelessness or domestic violence could be established with greater ease and mobilized faster if transparent, reliable data were assembled in one location and easily understood by any member of the general public.”
Establish community gardens at all library branches
With 24 locations, the Indianapolis Public Library has branches that are close to nearly every resident in the city. And that’s why Alexis Loyd, an account manager at Borshoff, said those branches would make great spots for community gardens that produce fresh food for people who need it. The library system could partner with an outside group—such as Indy Urban Acres—to help manage the gardens and distribute food. And the gardens could provide training and jobs for people in the area. Loyd suggested that funding for the program could come from taxpayers—or from selling some of the food, as well as coffee and other treats—at the libraries. “After all,” she wrote, “who wouldn’t want to drop by a thriving neighborhood hangout that also serves great coffee and sells fresh local produce?”•