Time is right: Mayor, school superintendent partner to address mental health issues with Wellbeing Coalition

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Supt. Beth Niedermeyer and Mayor Chris Jensen are co-chairs of the Noblesville Wellbeing Coalition. (Submitted photos)

When Chris Jensen ran his successful campaign for Noblesville mayor in 2019, a big part of his platform for public safety focused on mental health.

Public safety is playing such a huge part in every community, and mental health is playing a huge part in that,” Jensen said. “The (COVID-19) pandemic forced the conversation in the front of a lot of people’s minds. We launched an online series more than a year ago called ‘Mental Health Mondays.’ We felt the next logical step for us was to engage all of our community stakeholders and launch an official coalition going forward.”

Jensen and Noblesville Schools Supt. Beth Niedermeyer are co-chairs of the Noblesville Wellbeing Coalition, which officially launched last month as part of Mental Health Awareness Month. Jensen said the coalition had been discussed for several months and had met regularly since March.

“The schools are really helping tackle this issue, and so are we on the city side,” Jensen said. “We felt it was time for everyone to come together and be a one-stop shop for resources and ideas going forward around this topic.”

Niedermeyer agreed collaboration is essential.

“It’s important to create a citywide movement that fosters collaboration and integrates the efforts of the schools, city, health care and other key stakeholders while connecting with county-level improvements that break down stigma, focus on prevention and redefine well-being,” she said.

Niedermeyer said the school district has a variety of resources and staff already in place to serve the mental health needs of students, employees and families.

“We have social workers and counselors in all school buildings,” Niedermeyer said. “We provide our own services, link families to community-based resources they need and have a collaborative partnership with Community Health Network to provide school-based therapy services.”

Niedermeyer said the coalition is a collective effort, so goals are shared by all stakeholders.

“There are two goals where the schools will specifically lead planning and implementation,” Niedermeyer said. “These relate to the promotion of mental health awareness, the creation of opportunities for trauma and substance abuse prevention and additional collaboration with mental health providers to support youth. Working collaboratively is always an important part of serving the community, particularly around wellness.

“The pandemic has affected everyone in different ways, including increasing the levels of stress experienced by some families. This is a great time to come together to ensure our community has all of the support and resources they may need.”

Along with health care professionals from Riverview Health and Community Health Network, Jensen said the coalition has engaged with Aspire Indiana, Prevail, Noblesville Chamber of Commerce, Noblesville Diversity Coalition, faith-based leaders and Noblesville therapist Kristen Dale Boice.

“They all have a seat at this table,” Jensen said. “There are 23 members in our first group of thought leaders. That is probably going to expand over time.”

Jensen said the Wellbeing Coalition will set up four action teams with the focus on the culture of well-being, easy rapid access, crisis prevention and youth support and families. He said a community-wide survey will be launched in July to collect Noblesville-specific data about the state of well-being in the city. The survey will be a baseline to measure efforts and identify key strengths and weaknesses that exist in the community in relation to overall wellness. An action plan will be developed from the data.

The Westfield Wellbeing Coalition was launched in January 2019.

“Fishers led the way several years ago with Stigma-Free Fishers,” Jensen said. “(Fishers) Mayor (Scott) Fadness and others before me have laid the groundwork for me for mental health. (Inspiring Transformations CEO) Suzanne Clifford, who has been a consultant for us and helped us get this set up, has consulted with all those communities. There’s been a lot of sharing of data. I’m not necessarily a believer in reinventing the wheel, but we’ll be personalizing different task forces that fit Noblesville. Those communities have been great in sharing information.”

Jensen said the Noblesville community faced mental health issues well before the pandemic forced lockdowns in March 2020.

“The pandemic has certainly exacerbated those,” he said. “If there were any kind of cracks in your foundation, the pandemic really brought those to the surface. We want to make sure our community has a place to go, resources at their fingertips, understanding their needs and letting them know they are not alone in this journey and elevate the conversation.”

Jensen said each group is coming together with short-term plans.

“You are going to see a lot of presence from the mental health coalition,” Jensen said. “You’re going to see more resources become more available.”

Mayor Chris Jensen and therapist Kristen Boice participate in “Mental Health Mondays,” which are livestreamed at 11 a.m. on Facebook.

Mental Health Mondays

At the start of COVID-19 pandemic, Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen and licensed Noblesville therapist Kristen Dale Boice, small business owner of Pathways to Healing Counseling, recognized a need in the community. They started a weekly video chat in April 2020 about mental health issues and what individuals and families can do to take care of their health at home during the pandemic. The “Mental Health Mondays” streams live at 11 a.m. on Facebook. The series started weekly and moved to biweekly in July 2020.

Past episodes can be found by visiting cityofnoblesville.org.

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