Meet the Newly Elected Boone County Officials

BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (January 11, 2023) — Three newly elected Boone County officials took over in their new capacity to start 2023. The Boone County Commissioners are confident these newly elected officials will provide the community with highly responsive and professional services. 

Boone County Assessor Jennifer Lasley 

Jennifer Lasley

Assessor Jennifer Lasley was originally brought into her position in March 2022 when her predecessor, Lisa C. Garoffolo, retired. She ultimately won the general election. 

A lifelong resident of Boone County, Lasley earned her bachelor’s degree from the Kelley School of Business, along with a Level III Assessor-Appraiser Certification. She brings over a decade of experience to the office as a former Deputy Assessor. She says she ran for Boone County Assessor because of the experience and knowledge it takes to run the office by ensuring Indiana State Code is always being followed. 

Lasley is also active in the community through her volunteer work with several organizations, including the Boone County Humane Society, the Back to the Fifties Festival, the Boone County Cancer Society, and the Lebanon Elks Lodge #635.

“My experiences within the office will allow me to continue providing high-quality service to our Boone County taxpayers,” Lasley said. “I look forward to getting involved with the other 91 County Assessors in the State of Indiana and learning from their experiences. I would like to say thank you to the community for the support and faith in me to be your Boone County Assessor.”

Lasley is married with one child. 

Boone County Surveyor Carol Cunningham

Carol Cunningham

A lifelong resident of Boone County, Surveyor Carol Cunningham has been with the Surveyors Office since 1986. She served as the Assistant Surveyor from 1990 to 2022 and took over duties as Boone County Surveyor in January 2023 after former Surveyor Kenneth Hedge retired

In 2022, Cunningham received a certificate from the Indiana County Surveyor’s Association for the completion of the Institute for Excellence program. She has been deeply involved in the community and was appointed to the Lebanon Storm Water Board, where she served as Vice President for eight years. She has volunteered in various roles for the past 20 years including on the Boone County Fourth of July Committee.

Cunningham is a member of the Lebanon Christian Church and is married with two grown children and three grandchildren. 

Boone County Clerk Lisa Bruder

Lisa Bruder

Clerk Lisa Bruder has worked for the Boone County Clerk’s Office for 16 years. She’s served as a First Deputy for the last eight years. 

Originally a graduate of IvyTech with an Associate in Applied Science with a Paralegal Degree, she began her career working for the Boone County Circuit Court. After five years in that position, she went on to work for different attorney’s offices before returning to the Clerk’s Office in 2007. 

“I love working with the public and helping better our community,” Bruder said. “Our office has so many different tasks to learn, and while I enjoy learning and working on the election side, my true love lies on the legal side.”

A Thorntown resident, Bruder has been active in the community while serving on the Sugar Creek Township Advisory Board for the last two years. She is also a coach of the Junior High Girls Tennis team at Western Boone.

In her free time, she enjoys doing fun activities with her husband, Randy, and three children, Kara, Nathan, and Phoebe.

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Noah Alatza

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Welcoming New Boone County Commissioner Tim Beyer

BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (January 3, 2023) — At their January 3 meeting, the Boone County Commissioners welcomed Tim Beyer as the new Commissioner for District 1. 

“We are looking forward to working with Mr. Beyer as he begins his tenure as a Boone County Commissioner,” Commissioners Donnie Lawson and Jeff Wolfe said. “Beyer brings a unique perspective and voice to the table, and we are ready to continue building upon our work we set in motion over the past several years.” 

The Commissioners also selected Donnie Lawson as Commision President for the 2023-2024 year and Jeff Wolfe as Vice President for the 2023-2024 year. 

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Noah Alatza

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317-519-7892

Boone County Surveyor Kenneth Hedge Honored by Commissioners 

BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (December 27, 2022) — The Boone County Commissioners are honoring longtime Boone County Surveyor Kenneth Hedge for his decades of service to the county. 

After graduating from Purdue University, Hedge began working for the Boone County Soil and Water Conservation District for three years before becoming Boone County Surveyor in 1990.

During his time as county surveyor, Hedge served as an ex-officio member of the Boone County Drainage Board, a member of the Boone County Area Plan Commission where he served for multiple years as President.

Hedge was appointed to the Indiana Indiana State Water Pollution Control Board by former Governor Mitch Daniels in 2006. He would serve in that role until 2012. 

By 2013, the Indiana Association of County Surveyors nominated Hedge as Outstanding Surveyor of the Year and in 2015 he was appointed as President of the Indiana Surveyors Association. In 2019, he received the President’s Award from the Indiana Association of County Surveyors. He currently serves as the Central Vice Chair for the Indiana Surveyors Association.

Hedge is a lifelong Boone County resident. He was raised on his family farm and was an active partner in the farming operation with his father from early childhood. He currently continues that tradition with his children. 

The Boone County Commissioners commend Hedge for his decades of service to the county and will honor him with an original surveyor’s cornerstone marker from the 1800’s. The first cornerstones were laid in the late 1790’s, and utilized in property division. The cornerstone being dedicated to Hedge is from Boone County and will be engraved with his name and 32 years of service. 

“The surveyor is one of the most important positions in the county, and Kenny Hedge has brought so much to our community through his dedicated work,” said Commissioner Tom Santelli. “His work affected everything from farm yields, to roads and bridges. Everything he touched has made an impact on the county. He is the right kind of elected official, always putting our citizens ahead of himself, he will be deeply missed.” 

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Noah Alatza

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317-519-7892

Commissioners Looking Forward to Working with New Boone County Sheriff

BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (January 4, 2023) — The Boone County Commissioners are looking forward to working with newly sworn in Boone County Sheriff Anthony Harris along with his recently appointed command staff. 

“Sheriff Harris has served our community honorably for decades, and we are excited to see what accomplishments he will bring to Boone County during his time as Sheriff,” said Boone County Commissioner President Donnie Lawson. “We are also incredibly proud of all members of Sheriff Harris’ command staff who will bring their expertise and guidance as an asset to our community. The Boone County Sheriff’s Office is in good hands.” 

Sheriff Harris has named the following individuals to his command staff:

  • Chief Deputy Major Mike Beard
  • Major Brian Stevenson
  • Investigations Captain Jason Reynolds
  • Enforcement Captain Jeremy McClaine
  • Enforcement Lieutenant Craig Fouts
  • Enforcement Sergeant Ryan Musgrave
  • Enforcement Sergeant Jonathan Barnes
  • Enforcement Sergeant Eric Geyer
  • Communications Director Sam Sorter 
  • CSI Sergeant Leon Golladay
  • Investigation Sergeant Brad Dunn
  • Jail Commander Tim Turner
  • Matron Brittany Hicks

Additional information can be found at https://www.boonecountyindianasheriff.com/

Former Sherriff Mike Nielsen swearing in Sherriff Anthony Harris

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Noah Alatza

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317-519-7892

Boone County Commissioners Statement

BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (December 16, 2022) — The Boone County Commissioners provided the following statement after the Lebanon City Council voted to annex more than 5,000 acres of land into the LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research district

“The Commissioners respect the votes made by members of the Lebanon City Council on Monday. However, we recognize that some community members do not support the development. From day one, we have listened to all of our constituents and have been cooperating with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) as they continue to pursue the proposed development. We have shared information as it has become available since learning about the proposed development and have taken proactive steps to ensure the quality of life in Boone County remains intact. 

We have been cognizant of the potential impacts to the rural and agricultural character of our community and are sensitive to the affected residents. About 600 acres of land will remain in Boone County’s control and we fully support the process of implementing a strategic Planned Unit Development (PUD). We believe that development is inevitable, but we want to ensure it is being handled in the appropriate way. At this point in time, it is our belief that responsible growth may only be achieved through conscientious and deliberate planning.” 

MEDIA CONTACT

Noah Alatza

noah@coverdaleconsulting.com

317-519-7892

Commissioners Reveal Findings from Annual Indiana Mental Health Summit

Commissioners reveal findings from annual Indiana Mental Health Summit 

BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (December 14, 2022) — The Boone County Commissioners have revealed some resourceful findings from the annual Indiana Mental Health Summit.

Commissioner Tom Santelli attended the summit hosted by the state on October 21.

Commissioner Tom Santelli

“The education we received during this day is critical to continue advancing the mental health services that Boone County provides,” Santelli said. “What we learned was how an inadequate response to mental illness negatively impacts Indiana courts and communities.”

“It was also helpful to observe how local policy teams and Indiana state agencies mapped their behavioral health continuum to identify and address areas of need,” Santelli continued. 

The summit has helped the Commissioners identify service gaps in the local systems and develop effective strategies to fill them.

The Commissioners have long been committed to advancing mental health initiatives in the community. Commissioner Santelli said the summit has expedited the launch of an effective infrastructure for combating mental health woes in the Boone County community. 

In early June, the Commissioners voted to approve the use of ARPA funds to replace lost revenue by the Boone County Child Advocacy Center (Sylvia’s House) during the pandemic. The organization works to provide a safe, comfortable, and child-focused environment for juvenile victims to share their stories of physical or sexual abuse. Plans are also currently being developed to provide another option for adults facing similar circumstances. 

The Commissioners recently broke ground on the expanded Justice Center project, which will provide space for additional mental health services while focusing on keeping certain offenders suffering crises out of the jail system. 

“For years, the Commissioners have been proactive in championing mental health resources in the county. Through our extensive work with community partners, such as Community Corrections and Probation, Aspire, InWell, Mental health America, Cummins, the Cabin, Witham Health, JDAI, Family Recovery, and Drug Court, we are tackling mental health, drug addition, domestic violence, suicide and crisis intervention, and much more,” Commissioner Santelli said. 

Commissioner Santelli also recently attended the Mental Health America  “Mental Health and Addiction Symposium & Heroes for Recovery Awards.” Additional updates will be provided in the near future on the progress and opportunities for advancement in these important areas.

For more information on mental health resources in Boone County please visit, https://www.livinginboonecounty.com/mental-and-behavioral-health-resources-in-boone-county/

MEDIA CONTACT

Noah Alatza

noah@coverdaleconsulting.com

317-519-7892

Boone County Receives Millions in Funding for Road Improvement Projects 

BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (December 12, 2022) — The Boone County Commissioners released the following statement on Monday after the state’s Community Crossings Matching Grant program awarded the county more than $3 million for road and bridge improvements. 

Boone County Commissioner President Jeff Wolfe

“We are thankful as the State of Indiana continues to invest in our infrastructure. These project improvements will have long-term benefits for all members of our community. The Community Crossings Grants allows upgrades to immediate infrastructure needs while planning for future growth of Boone County.

The grant money will be utilized for road and bridge preservation, road reconstruction, intersection improvements, guardrail replacements and signage, and will cover material costs for chip sealing and crack filling operations.

“Providing this local funding puts Boone County in a better position as we continue to look ahead in the years to come,” said Boone County Commissioner President Jeff Wolfe. “I’m looking forward to seeing these improvements come to fruition to ensure our roads and bridges remain safe and functioning.” 

Boone County grant recipients:

County: $679,810

Lebanon: $339,072

Whitestown: $675,141

Zionsville: $893,412

Thorntown: $414,750

The bulk of Boone County’s grant money will be used to replace the 92-year-old Bridge Number 148 on County Road 600 West, about a half-mile south of C.R. 200 S. Bridge work will mean the closure of C.R. 600 W roadway for about 90 days in summer 2023. 

The funding will also support resurfacing of C.R. 500 S. from Ind. 75 to C.R. 900 W. near Granville Wells Elementary School. The project includes addressing sign and drainage needs along with pavement markings.

To learn more about Indiana’s Community Crossing Matching Grant Program, please click here.

Commissioners Break Ground on Boone County Justice Center 

BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (December 5, 2022) — The Boone County Commissioners were on hand Monday afternoon with Sheriff Nielsen and other stakeholders for a groundbreaking ceremony at the new Justice Center. The Commissioners provided the following statement. 

“After many years of planning and working through this much-needed development, we are looking forward to seeing this project finally come to fruition.

Despite some setbacks, we are grateful to see the project make headway. More importantly, we believe this is a critical step to move Boone County into the future. The entire project is expected to last 20-24 months, according to the county’s contractor.

The Commissioners would also like to thank several county offices including the Prosecutor, Coroner, Community Corrections, Probation Services and others for their valued input on this project. 

“This was one of the most cost effective projects we could do and I’m grateful to see it move forward,” Boone County Commissioner President Jeff Wolfe said. “The new Justice Center will ensure our continued advancement in the overall public safety across our community.”

From L to R: Commissioner Donald Lawson, Sheriff Mike Nielsen, Commissioner Jeff Wolfe, Commissioner Tom Santelli

“The expanded Justice Center really addresses those suffering from mental health issues and addiction needs in Boone County,” Sheriff Nielsen said. “We currently do not have the space or facilities we need to make sure all of our inmates are taken care of.  I’m happy to see this project moving forward, and it will have long-lasting positive impacts for Boone County.”

“This is a generational investment as a partnership between the Boone County Sheriff, Commissioners, and Council,” said Rob Barnes, Hagerman Group’s Director of Government Affairs and Business Development. “This justice center is truly rethinking criminal justice for the community instead of warehousing people – it values the communication of care to bring people back to becoming productive members of society.” 

“As Owner’s Representative, we are honored to provide guidance and oversight to the Commissioners and Sheriff’s Office throughout this entire process,” said Veridus Group’s Jesse Emswiller. “We are excited to see this project push forward and look forward to seeing how it will serve the citizens of Boone County for many decades ahead.”

“When I first met Sheriff Nielsen and the Commissioners, you could tell immediately that they wanted to create a facility unlike any other in the state. They were outside the box thinkers and instantly knew that I wanted to help bring their vision to reality,” said K2m Design President Scott Maloney. “Together we spent many months pouring over all the details to make this state-of-the-art facility everything the county needs to fulfill its mission for those in its care and  custody, as well as the employees and providers that treat them.  On behalf of the entire K2M Design team it has been an honor and a privilege working with Boone County, Sheriff’s office, Hagerman, GM Development, and Veridus Group on this transformative endeavor.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Noah Alatza

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317-519-7892

Commissioners Announce Full-Time Veterans Affairs Officer for Boone County

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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Noah Alatza

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BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (November 11, 2022) — On this Veteran’s Day, the Boone County Commissioners are grateful to announce the county’s Veterans Affairs Officer will now be able to serve our veterans on a full-time basis. The Commissioners provided the following statement.

“Individuals who served our nation honorably deserve the utmost respect and expedited services to meet their unique needs.

We are proud to support Veterans Affairs Officer Mike Spidel and encourage all of our veterans to contact him for all of their needs and resources provided through the Veterans Administration.

Mike Spidel

As Commissioners, we greatly appreciate the County Council’s approval of this full-time position to continue to support the needs of our community’s veterans.

Spidel’s position will become full time in January of 2023.

We look forward to seeing the continued growth and success of the Boone County Veterans Affairs Office.”

Halloween Trick-or-Treating Times for Boone County for 2022

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Noah Alatza

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317-519-7892

BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (October 19, 2022) — The Boone County Commissioners hope that members of the community participating in Halloween enjoy a fun and safe evening. Below are the official trick-or-treating times for Boone County on Monday, October 31. 

Boone County Municipalities – Trick-Or-Treat Times:

Advance 

6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Jamestown

5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Lebanon

6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. 

Thorntown 

6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Whitestown

6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. 

Zionsville

5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Community Events:

Jamestown will host a Costume Contest in the Town Park by the basketball court on Halloween night at 6:00 p.m. There will be prizes for 1st place winners. Local businesses will hand out candy to trick-or-treaters around the park. 

Lebanon will host “Mischief on Meridian,” a family-friendly trunk-or-treat event on the Boone County Courthouse square from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on October 29.

Thorntown will host a parade and costume contest on Halloween night. The parade lineup will begin at 5:00 p.m., and the parade will begin at 5:30 p.m. 

The Whitestown Parks and Recreation Department will host its annual Trick-or-Treat Trail at Anson Acres Park (4671 Anson Blvd) from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on October 29. 

The Zionsville Lions Club is hosting Pumpkins and Hayrides from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on October 23. The Morning Dove Therapeutic Riding Center is hosting a Fall Festival event from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on October 29. 

What Every Parent, Educator and Community Member Should Know about Fentanyl

Deaths involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl are on the rise. Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids in 2020 were 18 times greater than the number in 2013. Boone County Coroner Justin Sparks processed a 14-year-old Boone County youth who died from an overdose last year. I spoke with Sparks about the prevalence of fentanyl in Boone County and the rising number of fentanyl overdoses.

Its not an uplifting conversation to have. But it is a necessary one to have, especially with our young people. Gone are the days when one could procure a dime bag of marijuana and be relatively assured that it was “clean” — and not laced with some unknown and potentially dangerous chemical agents.

In the case of the Boone County 14-year-old overdose fatality, Sparks explained that one of the two drugs found in the child’s system was cocaine, but the leading drug was fentanyl.

Boone County Coroner Justin Sparks

What Is Fentanyl?

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, approved for treating severe pain — typically advanced cancer pain. It is significantly more potent than morphine. It is prescribed in the form of transdermal patches or lozenges and can be diverted for misuse and abuse in the United States.

However, most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose and death in the U.S. are linked to illegally made fentanyl. It is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product — with or without the user’s knowledge — to increase its euphoric effects. It is important for the public to be aware that fentanyl is a powerful drug that can be lethal in small amounts. And with vaping on the rise among young people in the U.S, it’s equally as important to be aware of the potential dangers of illegal vapes that have been laced with this powerful opioid drug.

More than 56,000 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids in 2020. The latest provisional drug overdose death counts through June 2021 suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Derivatives of fentanyl: metonitazene, a benzimidazole-opioid, and para-fluorofentanyl — either alone or in combination with fentanyl — are being encountered more often in the United States and are contributing to the numbers of unintentional fatal overdoses throughout the nation.

Overcoming Vulnerability with Education

Sparks shared the latest data that clearly shows that all communities and neighborhoods are susceptible to fatal and/or nonfatal overdose occurrences. All fatal overdoses are tragic, and all are preventable.

“One of the programs that I got linked up with through the Indiana Department of Health is called Overdose Detection Mapping [OD Mapping], and it’s a collaborative effort between as many states as we can get to participate,” Sparks shared. “We input our fatal and nonfatal overdoses, and it produces heatmaps of where drug overdoses are occurring in our county. [On] a broad scale, it allows me to see where the ‘hot’ regions are, and on the micro scale, it allows me to see in which communities [overdoses] are occurring.”

Sparks added, “I’m looking at January 1, 2022, to September 21, 2022, and on my map, I see four overdoses right in the heart of Zionsville. That OD map shows both fatal and nonfatal overdoses, but it shows that overdoses are real. Substance abuse does not discriminate against economic status — affluent versus nonaffluent neighborhoods. Substance abuse is capable of touching any family at any time.”

The Boone County Coroner’s office produced stats that show that from January 1, 2022, to September 21, 2022, Sparks has seen 10 overdoses versus 12 in the same time period as last year.

“Our overdoses overall are down,” Sparks stated. “However, [in] 7 of those 10 [overdoses] this year, fentanyl was the primary agent in the cause of death, where fentanyl was 6 of the 12 from last year. Fentanyl has made a push into our community. Last year, our average age for fentanyl overdose was 44.8 years of age, and it is down to 39.5 [years of age] this year. So far this year, our youngest fatal fentanyl overdose was a 22-year-old. Fentanyl is in our youth population. They have access to it, and some are using it.”

Tools to Combat Fentanyl Overdoses

Sparks shared his optimism amid such dire and tragic statistics. There are a myriad of tools and training throughout our county that can educate people on fentanyl — what forms it comes in, what someone who is overdosing looks and sounds like, and what can be done to reverse an overdose if discovered in time. These tools and training can and are saving the lives of people and youth in our communities.

“It’s a competition for the people that are producing these [illicit] drugs to get the ‘best’ drugs on the street,” Sparks said. “And people want the best high that they can get, so it’s a competition for people that sell this stuff to have people come back and get their drugs that have been chemically altered. You just don’t know what you’re getting. So, don’t take anything that’s not prescribed to you and that you didn’t open the seal on. Even if you think you’re getting it from a reputable source, they don’t necessarily know where it came from and what’s in it.”

Sparks solemnly added, “I guarantee you that if I was able to ask the people on my [overdose] list if they thought they were getting a fentanyl or para-fluorofentanyl, etc., they wouldn’t be able to tell me. The drugs they got were way stronger than they thought, and they died. The cases that I deal with are tragic, and the things that will stay with me forever are the responses of parents with the loss of their children.”

Naloxone — commonly known by its brand name Narcan — is a potentially lifesaving medication designed to help reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and life-threatening respiratory failure in minutes. Public safety and law enforcement agents commonly carry Narcan on them or in their vehicles. Sparks shared that many pharmacies in the county also have Narcan available for the public without a prescription, and he mentioned that Witham Health Services at Anson, located at 6085 Heartland Dr., Zionsville, has a Narcan vending machine by the front doors. Sparks also shared the link to an online resource: Harm Reduction Circle. It is a nonprofit that does online training on how to administer Narcan and can send it directly to your home: harmreductioncircle.org.

When asked what the county and the coroner’s office are doing to spread awareness and training, Sparks said, “From my side, we are having the difficult conversations. Boone County Health Department has offered classes for the public and is willing to do additional classes with the public where they teach the signs of an overdose, how to get Narcan and how to administer it, in addition to making the public aware of the prevalence of overdoses and how they can impact anyone.”

Sparks concluded, “What I’m optimistic about is that we are having conversations like this and that if we train people on how to use Narcan and have it readily available to the community, maybe the 70 percent of fentanyl cases that I’ve had wouldn’t exist. Having one specific area that we can focus on and using the tools that we have to fight back, we can win this [fight]. We have community leaders and mental health advocates that are fighting the good fight at the street level, who are making people aware of what’s happening and teaching them how to use Narcan. It’s simple — you open the package and literally put it into the nostril and spray. It’s done in 5 seconds. We can win at this and get people the help they need before they end up coming to my ‘office.’”

For more information opioid overdose basics and responding to an opioid overdose, visit harmreduction.org.

Mental Health America of Boone County Says, “No More!” to Domestic Violence

Mental Health America of Boone County (MHABC) is a 501(c)(3) organization and a chapter of Mental Health America (formerly the National Mental Health Association), the country’s leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives. With approximately 300 affiliates nationwide, MHABC represents a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation — every day and in times of crisis. MHABC envisions a just, humane and healthy society in which all people are afforded respect, dignity and the opportunity to achieve their full potential free from stigma and prejudice.

Advocating for a Stronger and Healthier County

MHABC’s mission: “Mental Health America of Boone County promotes and develops programs providing safe refuge from traumatic life events and address intellectual, emotional, physical, recreational and cultural needs of the youth of Boone County and their families.”

MHABC CEO and President Pascal Fettig has worked in Boone County for more than 25 years. Fettig was born and raised in France and resided in Germany before immigrating to the U.S. when he was 18 years old. He is married and has 5 children, 10 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren, all of whom reside in Indiana.

Fettig is passionate about advocating for a stronger and healthier community, and through his role at MHABC, he is using his platform and voice to speak up for those who are suffering and too afraid to call out for help. And as the county grows, his concern is that the number of domestic abuse cases will continue to rise. Fettig is imploring the Boone County community to continue talking about it — and not just when there is a tragedy plastered on the front page and filling everyone’s social media newsfeeds.

MHABC CEO and President Pascal Fettig

“We need to talk about domestic violence,” Fettig stated. “We need to talk more and talk loudly — to say, ‘No more!’ I used to hope that we could eradicate [domestic] violence, but we’re never going to eradicate domestic violence or substance disorders. We need to figure out how to step up our prevention programs and figure out how to get abusers into some specialized programs. There are specialized treatments for substance disorders, and there’s specialized treatment for schizophrenia. We need to address domestic violence in that same manner; it is a sickness.”

As Fettig pointed out, there are several programs that help “after the fact” and assist survivors of domestic violence to get out of a situation.

Fettig added, “I don’t know how we’re really preventing the issue, because the abuser will just target someone else, and the survivor will [likely] remain vulnerable. Very few of them gain the strength that they need to become fully independent, and most get back into another [toxic] relationship. As human beings, we need companionship. We strive for it.”

The Ripple Effects of Domestic Violence

MHABC works with law enforcement and other community partners to assist survivors of domestic violence along their journeys to healthier and safer lives. Many of the programs are focused on establishing financial independence and the mental health aspects related to domestic abuse.

“Making the right choices can be difficult,” Fettig empathized. “Domestic violence is about manipulation and control. Some people argue with me that mental health has nothing to do with domestic violence, and that’s completely inaccurate. Obviously, 100 percent of survivors [of domestic violence] come out of the situation with PTSD, if not more. And almost 100 percent of them come out of it with some substance disorder issues. That’s the only way they can deal with the pain.”

Fettig explained that it’s not only the physical pain that survivors suffer from but psychological pain as well.

“Sometimes they’re [survivors] not allowed to go the doctors,” Fettig shared. “So, they have to figure out how to deal with both their physical and psychological pain. The financial control is a big one, and that’s why they don’t up and leave — because they don’t know what they’re going to do. They are dependent on their abuser.”

In addition to the survivors themselves, the children, family and friends of the survivor are also traumatized by the domestic violence. And the chances of the abuse becoming generational are great.

“It’s a tough one to fight, and a lot of people are afraid to say anything,” Fettig said. “You have to say something to the proper authorities and go to the professionals. And people need to not worry about whether they’re going to make their family member or friend — who’s being abused — mad, because they will get over it.”

The Need for Bolstered Awareness

In addition to the existing programs and protocols, Fettig is working with law enforcement and other community partners to expand on the programs and to create targeted public service announcements that will provide more assistance and awareness to survivors and to the community at large.

“We’ve recently secured a grant to provide legal services, and we need to attract lawyers that would be ready to help us with issues such as protective orders, evictions and things that are directly related to domestic violence,” Fettig said. “We have some funding for transitional housing or ‘rapid housing,’ which helps survivors become fully independent. They need to be able to stand on their own two feet, and they deserve a better quality of life.”

Fettig continued, “We need to get that awareness out there. Domestic violence is not just physical — it is emotional, verbal and financial. You do not have to be black and blue on the outside to be tremendously black and blue on the inside.”

The devastating impacts that domestic violence has on children is also a great concern to Fettig and those who serve the county’s abused children.

“Half of the time I hear of a panel or training for crisis intervention specific to child abuse, there’s nobody that is an expert on domestic violence on those panels,” Fettig stated. “And I ask, ‘Why?’ Because 69 percent of children involved in domestic violence environments have been maltreated themselves. That’s a huge percentage, so there’s so much more that needs to be done. And I’m not sure that we can get it done without the full support of the community. People have to stop saying, ‘They didn’t mean it. Give them another chance. They just got angry one time.’ One time is too much.”

Fettig, MHABC and other community partners remain committed to continuing their work towards advocacy and developing more specialized training programs aimed at not only mental health professionals, law enforcement agencies, school administrators and staff but also average citizens.

“We’re trying to figure out the best approach, because there’s so much and so many to educate,” Fettig expressed. “It’s a tough one all around, and all that we can do is keep trying. I truly believe that the more people talk, and the louder people talk about domestic violence, the better it’s going to be.”

For more information on Mental Health America of Boone County’s services, please visit mhaboonecounty.org. And for related articles, visit livinginboonecounty.com.

The Second Chance Coalition is Setting People Up for Success

Earlier this year, the Boone County Economic Development Commission (BCEDC) partnered with members of the Boone County Community Corrections and Probation, the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, Unite Indy, Aspire Indiana and Boone County employers to create the Second Chance Coalition. This coalition serves justice-involved individuals while meeting the workforce needs of the county’s employers.

In addition to providing opportunities for employment education for both employers and those who are currently involved with Boone County Corrections and Probation, the coalition is providing soft-skills training programs to better prepare these individuals for the workforce in hopes of stopping of the cycle of unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse and reincarceration.

First Steps to Breaking a Cycle

The Executive Director at BCEDC, Molly Whitehead, explained that as part of the BCEDC’s 5-year strategic plan, the coalition is addressing the many barriers to employment that the second-chance population faces in Boone County.

The coalition has developed a five-session program that focuses on resuming writing, financial literacy and workplace environment skills.

Molly Whitehead-Executive Director BCEDC

“One of the key components of that [strategic] plan is to develop programming for underserved populations,” Whitehead said. “We started with the lowest hanging fruit —the second-chance population —and this matters to all of us [in the county], because from an employer’s perspective, this population is part of their potential or current workforce. And when somebody is involved with the justice system, that is a cost that we all incur. It costs money to operate the jail system and the courts and things like that. At the end of the day, I think it’s the right thing to do to help people who have been involved in the criminal justice system to get back on the right path and support them so that they can become a productive member of society.”

Whitehead added, “We at BCEDC — and I’m sure the sheriff’s department and the county as a whole — would love to see that cycle broken. To serve as many people as possible, that requires a really big partnership and a really big effort as a community to solve some of these issues. We’re talking about people that made some bad decisions and took the wrong path, but now they are going through corrections and probation and are trying to do what the rest of us are doing — trying to support their families.”

Three Core Areas of Focus

The Second Chance Coalition has three core areas of focus that it is currently working on.

Whitehead explained, “The first area that we’re taking a look at is from the public safety standpoint, and we’re coming at this from a workforce perspective but from within the public safety network. We are looking at what sort of opportunities exist — what do we have and what do we want that would better prepare people while they are incarcerated?”

According to Whitehead, people who have been involved in the justice system have a 27 percent unemployment rate.

“We know that there’s a big population out there that is willing and able to work, but from the employers’ perspective, how many of our employers in Boone County actively seek out and hire people who have a record? What we have found in our initial look into this is that a lot of our employers do hire but may not advertise it, in which case, we can help with that and help people [with records] seeking employment know where to apply so that they don’t waste their tine and can go work for employers that are trained and knowledgeable in this topic.”

The coalition’s third focus is on training for the workers.

“We’re looking at it from the workers’ standpoint,” Whitehead said. “What sort of training do they want and need? We started the course we’re calling ‘Maximizing your Potential,’ and that is a partnership between BCEDC and Boone County Corrections and Probation. This is a county-funded program. It is set up as a volunteer cohort, and the students have to sign a commitment letter stating that they are going to participate and show up every single time.”

The courses that have been developed focus on more than just interviewing skills and resume writing. They also focus on financial literacy, empathy and other social skills so that the person can gain confidence and acclimate more quickly and successfully in a workplace environment.

Moving Forward, Not Wayward

Member of the Second Chance Coalition and Quality and Compliance Coordinator/Case Manager for Boone County Corrections Katie DeVries shared her thoughts on the coalition’s mission and her role as a case manager.

“We are working to serve people in our community who are serving an executed sentence: my clients,” DeVries shared. “They could be in prison, but they qualified to complete their sentences in the community in an ankle bracelet, so they’re monitored 24/7. From my experience, they just don’t have the support system, and they don’t have members in the community that they can go to for help. I think the more we educate and train people, the better it will be. We all have to work together and communicate to achieve a common goal, and the [education] part of this is a big part of moving forward, in my opinion.”

DeVries continued, “Part of our job in community corrections and probation is to mentor and guide these people. Our first responsibility is to uphold the court order. They broke the law, and there’s a consequence. But at the end of the day, in addition to passing drug screens and showing up to pay their fees, we need to teach them skills that will help them accomplish their goals. Everybody has potential. We just have to be taught that we have it and how to use it.”

Boone County Prosecutor Kent Eastwood on Taking Care of Our Community

As Boone County continues the trajectory of unprecedented growth, the [Boone] County Commissioners and other county leaders are working to better educate the public about the existing resources as well as looking at how the county can expand upon those resources once the construction of the justice center has been completed.

Boone County Prosecutor Kent Eastwood and his fellow prosecutors are one of the many [county] and community partners working with the commissioners as well as with the county’s mental health organizations.

Eastwood emphasized that as the county’s population continues to grow, it is important that the community is aware of the existing resources and understands its roles and obligations when it comes to the subject of domestic violence. Eastwood also feels it’s important that the community understands his office’s role in the handling of such situations and in helping survivors of domestic violence.

The First Steps in Prosecuting an Abuser

When asked what the most important first step is that someone who is involved in a domestic violence situation can take, Eastwood stated, “It is always important to get documentation on everything, and independent documentation is best. As a judge evaluates a no-contact order or a protective order request, that independent documentation goes a long way. As a prosecutor, that independent documentation goes a long way in deciding what charges to file.”

Eastwood continued, “The biggest hurdle we have as prosecutors is people actually reporting it, and when they do, the second biggest hurdle is having them continue to cooperate in the prosecution of the [accused] individual. My goals — regarding domestic violence — [are] to make sure the violence stops and that the victim is safe.”

Boone County Prosecutor Kent Eastwood
Boone County Prosecutor Kent Eastwood

According to Eastwood, once someone has reported [the abuse] to law enforcement, the agency has two options, depending on whether or not they have probable cause to arrest the individual.

“If they have probable cause, they [the police] could arrest the perpetrator immediately or they can send [the case] to our office for review. Once it is in our office, we put it into our system, and we have a dedicated domestic violence prosecutor who does nothing else but [domestic] violence cases. That person will then review the case and determine whether or not there is probable cause and if a crime was committed. Assuming yes to both, we will file the case and issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest. The next thing our office will do is reach out to the victim and connect them with the appropriate services that are available in Boone County.”

Eastwood continued, “We also discuss getting a no-contact order, the benefits of doing such and if there are any witnesses to the incident. We talk with the victim about what they would like to see happen, and our victim advocate will be available to talk with them and walk them through the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system is not perfect, and we have to make sure that everyone’s rights are being safeguarded. What we always try to communicate is: give us as many tools as possible so that we can do our best job.”

Advocating for the Survivors of Domestic Abuse

In his 20-plus-year career, Eastwood shared some other hurdles that he has experienced when working with survivors of domestic violence.

“Victims of domestic violence feel trapped in the relationship, and they can’t just get out of that [relationship] even if they do report it,” Eastwood said. “There is an emotional dependency, and usually they also don’t see a way out of [the relationship] financially. We have to continue to develop resources so that we can provide options for the victims so that they’re not financially dependent on their abuser.”

Eastwood openly acknowledged that the criminal justice system takes time and is often frustrating to those who are trying to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives, which is why the prosecutor’s partnerships with the county’s mental health organizations and other related organizations are invaluable.

“The criminal justice system is there to attempt to hold someone accountable,” Eastwood stated. “And in doing that, we hope it gives the victims some sense of peace, but they’re never going to get that sense of peace from the [system] alone.”

Along with working with law enforcement, the victims need the resources that are available through Mental Health America of Boone County, InWell and Aspire.

Eastwood added, “These types of wraparound services offer the start — we hope — of where a person can become whole again. I just wish we had even more resources. With the tremendous growth that we’re seeing in our county, we are going to need more resources and more counseling services.”

What Can the Community Do?

It is Eastwood’s hope that someone with knowledge of a domestic abuse situation doesn’t keep silent but reaches out to law enforcement for guidance.

“Family and friends have got to support the victims and keep telling them to do the right thing for themselves and their children,” Eastwood emphasized. “And that is easy for me to say, but a lot of the time, the right thing to do is the hardest thing to do. Where children are involved, they often develop mental health issues and grow up to be victims themselves or abusers. You have to think about the broader picture, and that’s hard to do when you’re in crisis. The only thing we can do as a society is to make ourselves available to that person and help them when they are ready to do the right things.”

As long as humans walk the planet, there will be crimes committed against humanity. Eastwood stressed that inaction cannot be an option, especially where domestic violence is concerned. “It is my hope that when a victim meets with us, they will see on our faces and hear in our voices how much we care,” Eastwood expressed. “We, as a prosecutor’s office, get let down by the criminal justice system, but we keep fighting to do what’s right for the community and to do what’s right for individuals.”

Eastwood concluded, “There are consequences and repercussions for inaction that affect more than just the victim. They impact everyone involved, including the family, friends, neighbors and the community as a whole. With the growth that our county is experiencing, we have to start doing a better job of taking care of each other if we want our community to be healthy. If you see something, say something.”

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