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.”

Visit livinginboonecounty.com for more related articles.

Better Connecting Boone County via Broadband Services

Work is moving forward on the much-needed broadband upgrades across Boone County. Last month, the Boone County Commissioners announced the [broadband] project as part of Indiana’s Next Level Connections (NLC) Grant Program that the state announced in April of 2022. The grants include $2 million for upgrades to broadband infrastructure.

Indiana will invest $270 million toward improving broadband access and adoption across the state. Read more about the program here: https://www.in.gov/ocra/nlc/.

Key Broadband Infrastructure Grants

Charter Spectrum won the largest number of grants in the state with 26 total grants. They were also the sole recipients of the Next Level Connection Broadband awards for Boone County.

The federal Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) awarded close to $1.5 million for upgrades in the county as well. A total of more than $3 million will be invested into Boone County broadband infrastructure.

Eligible project areas include rural portions of Boone County that lack quality and reliable access to broadband services. This includes nearly 1,100 homes and businesses. Construction on the upgrades is set to begin in Quarter 4 of 2022.

Spearheaded by Commissioner Tom Santelli

The Boone County Commissioners have been working for months to secure funding for the updates that improve local communities’ overall quality of life, and leading the charge is Commissioner Tom Santelli.

Commissioner Tom Santelli

“We are thrilled about this because it is a pretty large expansion that will bring gig speeds by way of fiber to Boone County residents. We are thankful for the support from the county leadership, who were excellent to work with and who have made Boone County a very attractive location for providers such as ourselves,” said Elizabeth James, Manager of Government Affairs for Charter Spectrum. “Commissioner Tom Santelli has been an instrumental part in our ability to put together a strong bid for Boone County. We can’t say thank you enough.”

Both Commissioners Jeff Wolfe and Don Lawson have also publicly expressed their appreciation for Commissioner Santelli’s efforts and leadership on the broadband infrastructure improvements.

The Next Steps

“Our next step is to focus on the Indiana Connectivity Program [ICP] to connect unserved and underserved residents and businesses in Boone County,” Boone County Commissioner Tom Santelli said. “More than 11 internet service providers have the opportunity to review these locations and submit bids to the state on the cost of providing service to these registered areas.”

The ICP program is supported through the Boone County Commissioners $2 million commitment of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that leverage partnerships with broadband providers, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) and Boone County. These funds will ensure rapid deployment of broadband connectivity within Boone County.

“A key component of deploying this broadband infrastructure is simply having potential users register their addresses,” Santelli said. “When an address is submitted, there is typically a 6-month process from start to finish. Providers have 60 days to respond and submit bids on locations they would like to extend service to. OCRA then evaluates all bids within 30 days and selects the providers whose bids present the lowest cost per Mbps [megabits per second] to the state.”

The Indiana Connections Program is currently ongoing, and there are no cutoff dates for each round. In addition to the NLC Round III installations, the ICP efforts and the advanced broadband technology within the Lilly LEAP and the IDD (Innovative Development Districts) will complement the anticipated launch of the NLC Round IV.

Submissions can be made by visiting https://indianaegms.force.com/nlc/s/login/SelfRegister?locale=us or by phone at 833-639-8522.

The Benefits of Broadband Inclusivity

As many Boone County residents learned at the height of the 2020 pandemic, access to and reliable broadband connections proved crucial to connecting people with their families, friends, employers, and clients, as well as to healthcare providers by way of telehealth practices.

Those in the underserved or no [broadband] service areas, specifically the rural areas of the county, found themselves cut off from the rest of the community during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. And those who continue to work remotely — who are working in underserved areas — are in desperate need of the [broadband] infrastructure improvements.

“There are really two key parts to the county’s [broadband] infrastructure plan,” Santelli explained. “First, the inclusivity piece and the registering of underserved or no-service accounts. That’s why it’s important that people register with the state with their address and contact information. Next comes the state and federal grants to help us get into the underserved or no-service areas. The grants will allow us to make those last mile connections where we’ve got fiber — within a mile of a rural house — and make the connection.”

As the county continues to expand and create programs that improve the quality of life for the county residents, for businesses and amenities such as the county’s schools and libraries, the need for reliable broadband remains a high priority for the commissioners.

Santelli added, “Everything from the libraries, schools, mental health services and even probation services rely on having access to reliable broadband services. We — the commissioners — have to make sure that people have access to those services throughout Boone County.”

The featured map showcases the newest 380 locations for new broadband in New Ross, Jamestown, Whitestown, Sheridan, Lebanon and Zionsville.

Commissioners Approve Federal Funds for Generators at Advance Sewer Plant, Resolution Headed for Council Vote

ADVANCE, Ind. (June 13, 2022) — The Boone County Commissioners unanimously approved last month’s federal grant money to purchase generators for the Town of Advance’s sewage system. The money is part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and includes $132,000 for the generators that have recently seen delays due to material shortages.

The overhaul to the 25-year-old sewage plant started 3 years ago and was estimated by engineers to be around $1.4 million. Advance Town Councilman Jim Caldwell said only one bid came back at $2.3 million, which led local officials to ask the state for more money.

He said this also forced the town to put off some upgrades including the two back-up generators. The current generators are irreparable according to Caldwell.

The current plant handles about 30,000 gallons a day on average and Caldwell said if the County Council does not support the funding for the generators at its June 14 meeting, it could be a “nightmare.”

“Without these much needed funds, the main plant could be shut down for an extended period of time if it loses power,” Caldwell said. “We don’t have a backup generator right now and that is concerning.”

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management originally forced Advance to move forward with the project or face heavy fines due to the lack of efficiency at the sewage plant.

The Boone County Commissioners fully support the need for generators at the town’s sewage plant and are hopeful the County Council approves these funds to provide a safe and secure environment for all of the residents of Advance.

Looking Through the Lenses of Fiscal Responsibility and Humanitarianism

Boone County Commissioners Jeff Wolfe, Tom Santelli and Don Lawson would like the public to know why it is imperative to the overall health of the county to support the proposed justice center. In their words, they explain why building the justice center isn’t about political grandstanding—it’s a humanitarian effort with substantial financial savings to Boone County taxpayers.

“We are still in the development and design stages,” Wolfe stated. “We are probably looking at completing the final design by May [2022]. Then we can start talking about construction packages, bids, so on and so forth. These will not be public bids through the commissioners because we’ve hired GM Design to develop this as a BOT [Build-Operate-Transfer], so they’ll be handling all that with our input.”

Santelli added, “There’s a real sense of urgency in terms of serving our community, in terms of construction costs and financing costs. Every month that we delay [this project], that is adding cost to the project and people not having access to services that we could be providing throughout the justice center campus.”

The Economics of Rehabilitation Versus Warehousing

Commissioners Wolfe and Santelli broke down a few of the talking points that explain the economic impact of having a justice center for those who are more or only interested in the financial pieces of the proposed project versus the humanitarian aspect of changing the trajectory of human lives and ultimately saving them.

Commissioner Jeff Wolfe

“I think an important thing that we [the commissioners] have learned throughout this process is what we would really accomplish through this justice center,” Wolfe stated. “Some of the [Boone County] council members have asked us, ‘What if the next sheriff doesn’t want to do all this mental health programming?’ And my answer is, ‘Well, if we have it all set up for them and have given them the necessary space to do it—why would they step away from something that is actually creating result?’”

Santelli added, “I think it all wraps together. Michael Nance [Boone County Community Corrections] presented his annual report to the commissioners and the council earlier this year. Our job is not to incarcerate people. Our job is to keep people out of jail to the best of our ability—not considering violent offenders. We currently have approximately 2,500 people in community corrections and probation. That saves a significant amount a year—$6.5 million—and it provides an avenue for those in the justice system to get treatment, mental health counseling, develop job skills, earn a GED and provides a litany of bridges for them to reintegrate back into the community.”

Commissioner Tom Santelli

According to Nance’s annual report, Boone County Community Corrections saved more than $5.4 million in tax money in 2021 amid a growing number of cases. The number of pretrial clients released to community corrections went from 243 in 2020 to 479 in 2021, and the number of active home detention clients rose from 183 to 227. Additionally, felony diversion clients rose from 66 to 82 during the same period.

“An important number in [Nance’s] annual report is the 5,789 drug screens that were pulled by community corrections and probation in 2021,” Wolfe said. “Out of those, only 700 were positive [drug screens]. That means something is working and making a difference in this system. Justin [Sparks], our county coroner, will tell you that in the first week that somebody’s released from jail, they’re 80 times more likely to overdose. That’s just the reality. So, when you’re seeing people on probation and there’s only 700 out of almost 6,000 that test positive—that tells you something is working in the system. Now assuming that there’s no growth in our county over the next 10 years, incarcerating these individuals rather than putting them into community corrections and probation would COST us as a county $6.5 million. Multiply that over 10 years and that’s $65 million that community corrections is saving the taxpayers. So, if you want to look at this from strictly a numbers perspective—treating people is less expensive than housing them. It’s just that simple.”

Santelli added, “Again, it all ties together. The new justice center campus includes 90–100 beds for treatment programs, and then we tie in the coroner’s office, morgue, crime scene investigations (CSI), work release programs, our family recovery court and drug court. We’ve got a lot of people that we could be treating right now, but because we don’t have the space and the resources in the current jail facility, we can’t get to them. It’s like going to the ER and being told that they’re not going to treat you because they don’t have the space or resources.”

Lawson spoke about the importance of rehabilitating people rather than simply warehousing them and how the latter will cost Boone County taxpayers more in the long run.

Commissioner Don Lawson

“It certainly is a concern to raise taxes at any point in time,” Lawson said. “And taxes are never good. Taxes are hard on people, no matter what and is it worse now than it was a year ago or will be in five years from now—I can’t say. I have a degree in animal science. I don’t have a degree in AG econ. But it’s extremely important from a [public] safety perspective that we rehabilitate these people. The more we rehabilitate versus warehouse, the more money the county is going to save and the more lives will be saved.”

Lawson, a volunteer firefighter of 35 years and EMT for 36 years, has seen the best and worst of human nature.

“I’ve seen a lot of stuff over the years,” Lawson said. “I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I understand safety and the more that we do for those people that are incarcerated, the more we can keep them from doing it again. Rehabilitating people makes our county and communities so much stronger and healthier.”

Lawson continued, “In one of the [public] meetings, we heard from three gentlemen who went through BCSO’s rehabilitation programs. One of them, had his six-year-old son with him who he could never see when he was in jail. Now, he has a full-time job and has full custody of his son. That’s the kind of thing that makes me excited because of what was accomplished. Another life was saved and now this gentleman has his son back and his life has been changed. He’s back on the good side again.”

As the County Grows, So Do the Needs of the County

The commissioners also spoke about the dire need for additional space for the county’s 911 communications center.

“Our county has doubled in size, and our communications center is underscaled for what we need to get accomplished,” Santelli explained. “There’s a lot of upgrading that needs to be done and space that needs to be added. When the communications center was added after the current jail was built [in 1992], it wasn’t designed for the growth that our county has been seeing. The justice center project will allow us the opportunity to architecturally add to the whole complex and have a communication center that will support our growing population.”

Lawson added, “Our population will continue to grow and being a donut county, unfortunately, we will grow more and more.”

Wolfe concluded, “When the current jail was built in 1992, the population of Boone County was 38,000. We’re almost at 71,000 people and growing exponentially. In the next 10 years, we will see another 20,000 before our next census. We’re not planning the justice center ‘too large’ for the needs of the county and its justice system. I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. The question really is, ‘Are we planning this center and campus to be large enough to carry us into the future?’”

For more detailed information and previous reports on the Boone County Justice Center, visit livinginboonecounty.com.

Battling Suicide and Overdose Fatalities in Boone County

Boone County has recently organized the Boone County Suicide and Overdose Fatality Review Team and Boone County Coroner Justin Sparks explained the team’s purpose in detail.

Why Suicide and Overdose Fatality Review?

Even prior to the pandemic that began in 2020, death rates for suicide have continued to rise both nationally and in Indiana, despite efforts to curtail these trends. Based on recent data provided by the Indiana Department of Health (2018), suicide is a top 10 leading cause of death in Indiana for people aged 10–64 years and is the 11th overall leading cause of death for all ages. While each suicide death or attempt is different, there are ways to address the multiple factors involved. Suicide prevention efforts must utilize different strategies, require a wide range of partners, coordinate community response language and draw on a diverse set of resources and tools.

Suicides occurred at twice the rate of homicides. In Indiana, based on 2018 data, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death among all age groups. Death due to suicide is most prevalent in younger age groups, 10 to 54 years, where suicide ranks among the top 5 causes of death. According to IDOH Vital Records data, between 2015 and 2018 there have been 4,177 deaths by suicide in Indiana. This equates to around three deaths a day in the state of Indiana alone.

Vital records, such as death certificates, are important for tracking quantitative data; however, numbers are not enough. The context surrounding that death is essential to learn how to help prevent that type of death from happening again. Fatality Review teams meet this need by providing the information about the who, what, where, when, how and why.

Expanding the Mission to Save Lives

Sparks takes his duties as coroner seriously, and as a parent himself, dealing with child suicides is devastating to everyone involved but especially for the child’s loved ones he/she has left behind with more questions than answers. Sparks has been collaborating with the Indiana Child Fatality Review (CFR) Program to not only find answers to these questions but to help prevent them from having to be asked.

On July 1, 2013, a new Indiana law (IC 16-49) went into effect, requiring child fatality review teams in each county with coordination and support for these teams to be provided by the IDOH.

The county prosecuting attorney in each county is required by this new legislation to establish a Child Fatality Committee whose membership includes the prosecuting attorney or their representative, the county coroner or deputy coroner and representatives from the local health department, Department of Child Services and law enforcement. The Child Fatality Committee is responsible for selecting members to serve on the Local Child Fatality Review Team and determining whether to establish a county child fatality review team or enter into an agreement with another county or counties to form a regional child fatality review team.

Each local child fatality review team will be made up of a coroner/deputy coroner, pathologist, pediatrician or family practice physician and local representatives from law enforcement, the local health department, DCS, emergency medical services, a school district within the region, fire responders, the prosecuting attorney’s office and the mental-health community. The teams are required to review all deaths of children under the age of 18 that are sudden, unexpected or unexplained, all deaths that are assessed by DCS and all deaths that are determined to be the result of homicide, suicide, accident or are undetermined.

To determine which cases meet the criteria for review, the local teams will examine death certificates provided to the team by the local health officer in each county. The local teams will provide the aggregate data collected from their reviews to the Statewide Child Fatality Review Committee. The statewide committee will then endeavor to classify the details of these deaths, identify trends and inform efforts to implement effective statewide strategies designed to prevent injuries, disability and death for our children. By working together to understand the circumstances involved in a child’s death, we can make Indiana a healthier and safer place for our children.

“Enabled through state statute, we’re [stakeholders] are able to share information on these cases,” Sparks said. “We can construct these kids’ lives from birth until death and see what was going on in their lives. We’re working at how we can do things better and how we can prevent kid cases [of suicide] from happening again.”

New for Boone County is an adapted model of CFR that focuses on the county’s adult suicides and overdoses.

“I’ve been working on this since my first week in office,” Sparks explained. “The Suicide and Overdose Fatality Review Team is the same concept as CFR. The IDOH is kind of the parent agency. I am very cautious about my approach—the last thing I want to do is essentially exploit these people’s tragedies. I have addressed these issues before the justice center project took center stage, and I’m going to continue to address these [issues] after the justice center project. It’s about doing the right thing for Boone County residents and families.”

Sparks explained his role as coroner in cases involving suicide—at any age—and overdoses that occur within Boone County.

Boone County Coroner Justin Sparks

“We [coroners] have to come up with scientific facts/statements and determine whether [an unexpected] death is a suicide or an accident,” Sparks stated. “It literally takes a scene investigation, interviews from family members, an autopsy, toxicology results, and I subpoena for medical records. My decision making is like the scales of justice to the point that—based on the evidence—I have to tip the scale towards an accident or suicide, and I can’t be wrong. I have to make that determination based on facts, and so the job is very complex.”

A Disturbing Upward Trend

In addition to the pandemic ripple effects that have deeply affected the adults and children throughout our state and nation, Boone County has seen exponential growth over the last few years, and along with a growing population comes the increase of substance abuse disorders and behavioral health issues in both child and adult demographics.

“I had two cases involving kids—14-year-olds—in 2021 who took their own lives,” Sparks said. “Neither of these kids had fallen through the cracks. Both kids were actively engaged with counselors. Their parents had seen warning signs. So, everyone was doing absolutely everything right in those situations. It’s easy to say, ‘Those were tragedies,’ but I can’t just say that. I have to figure out what happened. I’m trying to understand what we are missing. We’ve got some real issues that we’ve got to address in our community. I don’t think we’re different than every other community in the state right now. But we better confront this right now. My office saw a 35% increase in caseload from 2019–2020. We’ve got a lot of resources that exist in Boone County, and I’m working on networking and bringing them together.”

Sparks is looking at targeted education to address the rise in suicide and overdose fatalities. The review teams he participates on adds another layer of investigation and information that will help him discover root causes and help devise even more preventative measures when it comes to suicide and overdoses. “I can’t change the nature of the work that I have to do, but I can stand up and tell everybody that I can get in front of, ‘Here are the problems, and here are the things we can do to work on them,’” Sparks said. “I spoke in a commissioners’ meeting and said, ‘I will never be able to fill this room up with people whose lives I’ve saved, but what I can do is start changing the tide.’ I can start destigmatizing or ‘normalizing’ what is happening.”

Supporting Boone County Veterans

Veterans have an immense number of services and programs available to them; however, navigating through them can be overwhelming due to constantly changing conditions. The Boone County veterans’ officer can assist veterans and others with all of these programs and services.

Understanding the Role of the County’s Veterans’ Service Officer

The County veterans’ service officer (VSO) works under the direct supervision of the director of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA), although the VSO is appointed and paid by the county. There is a VSO in every county, in every state, throughout the nation.

The service officer must have served at least six months of active military service in the armed forces. The service officer must attend an annual training conference, normally conducted in June, to receive update training and to recertify as competent as a service officer.

The primary function of the service officer is to assist veterans, their dependents and survivors, in obtaining the state and federal benefits to which they may be entitled. In that capacity, the service officer will help with the completion of federal and state applications for those benefits. The service officer can set up benefit briefings with veterans and their families to explain all that is available. For those individuals who are unable to travel, home visits can be arranged.

Meet Boone County’s Veterans’ Service Officer

Boone County’s Veteran Affairs Service Officer Michael “Mike” G. Spidel is currently the Boone County veterans service officer and serves as a paramedic for Witham Health Services in Lebanon. Mike graduated from Lebanon Senior High school in 1980 and entered the United States Navy later that summer. He served on submarines and ultimately earned the rank of IM2 PO Rank E5. Mike was honorably discharged in 1986 and returned to Lebanon, where he served on the City of Lebanon Fire Department as a firefighter from 1987 to 2013.

“I’ve been on the job since 2014,” Mike said. “It’s a gratifying and rewarding job, but sometimes it’s frustrating dealing with the bureaucracy of Veterans Affairs. Oftentimes, it’s taking one step forward and then two backwards, but I’ve been successful on many occasions, and I’ve helped a lot of people achieve benefits that they were eligible for and that they could get or how to apply for. I’m very proud of that.”

Not all VSOs are as dedicated as Mike is, and Boone County is a stronger community because of people like him. The county’s veterans are in capable and caring hands when they reach out to Mike’s office for assistance.

“It is a 24/7 job,” Mike shared. “I deal with veterans and their families all the time, and some things are very simple. They just take a phone call to clear up, and others can take months of collaboration from my office and other offices and agencies to get it handled.”

Compassionate Care for Our Veterans

When Mike was appointed by the Boone County Commissioners in 2014, the county’s percentage of connection was at about 6% with an approximate population of 3,500 veterans living in the county. Currently, with Mike’s diligence and concerted efforts, the percentage of connection is at 17% with roughly the same number of veterans residing in Boone County.

“I’ve tried really hard at changing that [percentage] of service connection,” Mike expressed. “Some of that [percentage] is because the veterans themselves, when they get out of the military, they want to put that behind them and don’t want any more involvement with the VA. They don’t care that they’re eligible for benefits. Some veterans are reluctant to receive their benefits, feeling in some way that they’re taking something from somebody else.”

Mike continued, “It’s a challenging field to deal with, and a lot of times, the age group that we’re dealing with now—the Vietnam veterans—who are in their 70s are very bitter towards the federal government and towards the military. The Gulf War veterans—that are my age—have a variety of things they suffer from also. Every era of war has had its nasty nuances that the veterans have had to learn to cope with after their service was over.”

Depression, addiction and other behavioral issues are a priority for Mike as the county’s VSO and as a veteran himself. He works with all of the county’s and state’s agencies to ensure that the veterans have access to resources as they relate to their physical and mental health needs. The number of veterans coping with behavioral health issues is astonishing and heartbreaking. Mike works with a myriad of agencies to assist veterans with getting the compassionate care and treatments that they need and deserve.

“PTSD claims are very challenging,” Mike shared. “The [veterans] are oftentimes embarrassed and don’t want that on their record. But to establish the basic eligibility, we have to go down that road and work with a psychiatrist and a health care professional so that the veteran can get the care they desperately need from that PTSD claim. It’s not just about the money. It’s a lifesaving thing that keeps them from being homeless, from being addicted to drugs and becoming suicidal. I was a paramedic for the city’s fire department for 28 years and have been a paramedic for the hospital for 35 years, so I certainly know what’s it’s like to be involved in something that’s horrible. I could tell you horror stories about [veterans] right here in Boone County that couldn’t let it go when they came back and couldn’t get it out of their head.”

When the pandemic was shutting down many VSO offices across the nation, Mike was determined to keep his office open and, in many cases, met the veterans where they were.

“I moved to virtual calls and assistance,” Mike stated. “When the pandemic hit, that age group of veterans that I would usually see in my office were the ones that would be the most affected by the exposure [to COVID-19]. So, there were several phone calls made, and I would gather the evidence and paperwork that was needed, and I would make visits to the [veterans’] houses. I’d stand out on their porches—wearing a mask—and explain to them where I needed their signatures. I slowed down, but I did not shut down during that time period.”

In addition to working with veterans on determining their eligibility for benefits and assisting them through the claims process, Mike utilizes his partnerships and relationships throughout the county to provide veterans with the things they need to improve the quality of their lives.

“I’ve tried to move into other areas where I could help that don’t necessarily have to do with claims,” Mike said. “I’ve completed a project for an 82-year-old veteran who tripped and fell in his bathroom. I was on that particular ambulance run. We established a nonreverting fund that the county commissioners and county attorney helped me establish so that I can receive donation money, and the very gifted ladies in the office help me with the grant applications so that we can use that money to fix things to allow veterans to stay in their homes and not have to go to a care facility. We’ve built several ramps, purchased lift chairs and did this bathroom remodel for the veteran I just spoke about. So, it’s not always about helping somebody sign up for their benefits that will give them a monthly disability payment—there’s a lot more to it than just that.”

Your Boone County Veterans Affairs Office is ready and eager to serve you. If no one is in the office when you call, please leave a message with your name, phone number and a brief description of what your call is regarding, and your call will be returned within 24 hours. Appointments are recommended. If this is an emergency, you may call the Boone County Commissioners’ Office at (765) 483-4492 and request that they contact the county veterans’ service officer.

Primary Services Provided by the Boone County Veterans’ Office

  • Burial Claim
  • Disability Claims
  • Disabled Veterans Tax Abatement Program
  • Education & Training
  • Health Care
  • Honoring Military Veterans
  • Military Family Relief Fund
  • Military Records
  • Military & Veteran Information
  • Reduced Fees on Hunting/Fishing Licenses
  • Veterans License Plates
Mike Spidel

Mike Spidel

Veteran Affairs Service Officer

Phone: (765) 483-4480

Fax: (765) 483-6028

Email: mspidel@co.boone.in.us

Destigmatizing Mental Health: An Honest Discussion About Teen Suicide

*This article was produced in memory of Tate Eugenio. We’d like to thank Tate’s parents Randy and Angie Eugenio for their contributions to this article.

A study released in January 2020 by the Center for Health Policy at Indiana University states, “Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among all age groups combined. In 2017, it accounted for 47,173 fatalities and contributed to nearly 2% of all U.S. deaths. Among young people, however, suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death, resulting in 19% of deaths in 10- to 24-year-olds and 11% of deaths in those aged 25 to 44.”

The Indiana Department of Health reported that in 2017 the rate had actually increased to 14.0 deaths per 100,000. A second goal of the initiative was to reduce suicide attempts among adolescents by 10%, from a baseline of 1.9 suicide attempts per 100 population in 2009 to 1.7 attempts per 100 population by 2020. In 2017, however, the rate had risen to 2.4 per 100 population.

Suicides occurred at twice the rate of homicides. In Indiana, based on 2018 data, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death among all age groups. Death due to suicide is most prevalent in younger age groups, 10 to 54 years, where suicide ranks among the top 5 causes of death. According to IDOH Vital Records data, between 2015 and 2018 there have been 4,177 deaths by suicide in Indiana. This equates to around three deaths a day in the state of Indiana alone.

Remembering Tate

Tate Eugenio was an exceptional young man from Zionsville, Indiana. The only son of Randy and Angie Eugenio, Tate was a summa cum laude graduate of Zionsville Community High School and member of Christ Lutheran Church in Zionsville. Tate was attending Purdue University where he was pursuing a degree in computer engineering until his untimely death on Nov. 27, 2021, at the age of 19.

Known for his infectious smile and kindness toward others, Tate was an accomplished young man. His parents shared that Tate was a talented percussionist and athlete who participated in middle school and high school jazz band and show choir combo. He enjoyed baseball and tennis and was a member of the water ski club at Purdue.

“I think if you talk to anybody that knew him [Tate], one of the first things they’ll say is that he had a great smile that could melt hearts,” Angie shared. “He had a lot of passion, and all the things he did—he was 100% in. He was very coachable and was focused and hardworking. A lot of kids knew him as the ‘hype’ guy that got everybody excited. He was also a servant, and even through his pain over the last year, he was ministering to other people. He worked at an assisted living facility and drove residents around on Fridays. He called it ‘Friday Jive and Drives,’ and he would play jazz music while driving the residents around to get them out of the facility. He was an animal lover and a faithful person who was active with a small Bible study group.”

Randy added, “Tate was the one who liked to include outsiders. For example, back in middle school, he was having lunch with his buddies and noticed one kid sitting by himself, all alone and not talking to anybody. Tate took it upon himself to walk over to this kid and invite him to join him and his buddies for lunch. They became very close friends.”

The inclusive nature of Tate was honored and acknowledged at his memorial service by those whose lives were directly impacted by Tate’s loving and accepting manner.

“I think it’s important for people to know that through all of what Tate was going through, he was doing his work to help himself,” Angie said. “He wasn’t sitting in a pool of pity. He was doing things that made him feel better and was helping people. He gave plasma—not because he got money but because he was going to help somebody. And he helped his friends who needed help during study groups.”

Tate left a positive and inspiring impression on everyone he met.

Randy noted, “Every single member of the [water] ski club came to the funeral even though they had only known Tate for a couple of months.”

Destigmatizing Mental Health

What is most important for people to understand is that suicide can affect any family, regardless of their socioeconomic status. When it comes to teen suicide, it can happen to any family. As a society, we tend to look at physical health as being paramount to a healthy family unit and community as a whole. What needs to be considered is that mental health is equally as important to a person’s overall health and to the well-being of a community. As behavioral health specialists and organizations continue to work with local public health and safety agencies, schools and legislatures on destigmatizing mental health, it is an entire community’s responsibility to assist in these efforts and support individuals and families in crisis.

There are tools and resources available to help folks know what to do, what to say and when to intervene when they suspect someone is struggling with their mental health. To learn more about available resources and who to contact regarding suicide prevention, visit https://www.in.gov/issp/.

Within Boone County there are behavioral health organizations that specialize in mental health services for teens, veterans and anyone suffering from behavioral health issues. See the list at the end of this article. Tate’s parents reflected back on the resources they utilized and emphasized that the community needs to realize that people struggling with mental health are suffering an actual illness and do not choose to suffer.

Both Randy and Angie are physical therapists, and Angie works a lot with children and young people. In addition to their own personal journey, they are witness to their clients’ struggles and personal stories and understand that mental health is more than a buzz phrase—it’s a part of one’s holistic health and impacts one’s physical health when left untreated.

“You can provide them with all the resources, support mechanisms and all the verbal support and hugs that you can, but this is an illness—it’s not a choice,” Angie emphasized. “It’s just like when a kid gets cancer. They don’t bring on upon themselves. It’s a medical problem. I think the stigma makes kids—especially—reluctant to want to get help or want to talk about it.”

Angie continued, “The most important thing is that we need to talk about this, and we need to normalize mental health. This is something we should do every day for ourselves, and I think it’s hard. We have faith that we are leaning on, and you know your faith is working through your community for you. Maybe not everybody in this situation has that, and we are so incredibly grateful for that support. Tate had a community too. It wasn’t like he was physically holed up in a room, isolated or marginalized.”

While there was a specific “event” that alerted Randy and Angie that their son was experiencing mental health issues, they both agree that there are many more stressors that kids face today than the previous generations had to navigate and that negatively impact our youth’s mental well-being.

Angie added, “I don’t know that this is directly related to Tate, but I counseled a kid who came in with physical manifestations of his mental health challenges. Maybe I’m a little more sensitive to all these issues right now, but kids have high expectations of themselves, and their community has high expectations of them as well. I think it’s easy to compare yourself to other people that you think are successful, and though you may be hugely successful—you may look at your peer and feel like you’re blase. It’s all about comparisons, and I’m sure this had an influence on Tate.”

Another stressor that impacts one’s behavioral health is social media and the need to compare oneself with others based on what people interpret as success and happiness that’s being projected on social media. Coupled with the pandemic and all that it inflicted on people throughout the world, it’s become a tragic reality that we are seeing an increase in anxieties that are driving the increase of suicides and overdoses among young people.

“Everybody is posting things they’re doing, especially joyful things, and I wonder if kids are wondering if they’re feeling this way and wondering why they don’t have all this ‘joy’ that they see others having,” Randy said. “They may wonder why other families are doing all this stuff and their families aren’t. When we were kids, we saw what was in front of us and what we talked about on the phone. That’s how we communicated. We’d talk on the phone, go to someone’s house and meet up with a group of friends. There wasn’t this social media and internet stuff where you could see all these different people and all this other stuff. There’s a huge negative stigma attached to mental health, and these kids don’t want to be attached to that. And like Angie said, it’s just like any other illness, like cancer or diabetes. It’s part of our being.”

Advice to Families and Community Members

Talk to your children and to loved ones who you suspect are struggling with their mental health. Become familiar with Boone County’s behavioral health organizations and available resources.

As a community, we cannot afford to be complacent or dismissive. Mental health doesn’t affect certain people. It affects all people. The pandemic and national and world affairs have been challenging to every living person on the planet. We’re not here to debate who was more impacted but to discuss as a community—as a county—how do we grow from here?

“I think the kids need to feel OK with not being OK,” Angie said. “I guarantee you all the experts say that it’s OK to approach somebody and ask, ‘Are you OK? Do you need help? Do you feel like you’re going to hurt yourself?’ I don’t have the answer, but I think we need to start helping our kids understand—really young—that it’s OK to have feelings and that they are our feelings. There are ways that you can help yourself, and there are people that can help you. It takes strength to get help. It takes strength to acknowledge the challenges and to get help, and that’s what strong, smart people do—they get help.”

Mental Health Resources in Boone County

ASPIRE LEBANON – 1600 West Main Street, Lebanon, IN 46052, (765) 482-7100

Cummins Behavioral Health Systems, Inc. – 940 Lasley Drive, Lebanon, IN 46025, (888) 714-1927

Inwell Integrative Wellness, LLC – 610 North Lebanon Street, Lebanon, IN 46052, (765) 680-0071

The Cabin Counseling and Resource Center – 220 South Elm Street, Zionsville, IN 46077, (317) 873-8140

Mental Health America of Boone County – 1122 North Lebanon Street, Lebanon, IN 46052, (765) 482-3020

We ask that you look after your neighbors and continue to be good to each other. We are all in this together.

Boone County Shines a Light on the Road to Recovery and Rehabilitation: BCSO’s Capt. Tim Turner

The Boone County Sheriff’s Office’s (BCSO) primary focus remains on the rehabilitation of its inmates or “clients” and reducing the recidivism rate, albeit the county jail’s current recidivism rate is at 17%—down from 44%. BSCO attributes the success of its behavioral health and rehabilitation programs, such as the Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program and Jail Chemical Addictions Program (JCAP), to the success the department has seen throughout Sheriff Michael Nielsen’s tenure.

According to Nielsen, 79% of Boone County Jail’s clients (inmates) are suffering from some type of mental health, trauma, emotional and/or addiction issues.

A Look at the Inside

To help explain what BCSO is currently doing—amid a rapidly growing population—to assist its clients to get back on the path to healthy living and stability, Capt. Tim Turner with BCSO offered a glimpse behind the scenes at what the inmates are experiencing while they are in the care of BCSO and the challenges they face once they are released from the jail.

“I was born and raised in Zionsville and have lived in this county for 53 years,” Turner shared. “Over the years, I’ve heard that we [Boone County] don’t have any homeless or bad drug problems. I care to disagree. We do have a bad drug problem, and we do have homeless [people].

Out of the people that we are incarcerating, 90%-plus of them are addicts. They’re not bad people really, but they’ve made bad choices. I’ve learned over the last five years in this position that all of these people have had trauma in their life at some point.”

BCSO Capt. Tim Turner

Turner continued, “A person doesn’t wake up at [age] 20 or 30 and decide that they want to be a drug addict or alcoholic for the rest of their life. Something forced them to make these bad decisions, and they felt like there was no way out—just like when a person commits suicide. There are mental issues that need to be addressed, and we’ve got to keep that person alive long enough to try to get them into counseling and into our classes.”

Turner emphasized that the MAT program is just one tool in BCSO’s toolbox. The inmates must participate in and complete the programs and therapies that are available to them while they are in the care of BSCO. The biggest hurdle for BCSO is that there isn’t enough room to enroll all the inmates that are asking to participate.

“We’ve added Aspire [Indiana] and InWell to our counseling programs, and sometimes we’ll have five counselors in here during the day, but now we don’t have anywhere else to put anybody. We’ve emptied out closets and offices to make room for these services and programs.”

Turner explained that not all the inmates need to be behind steel bars once they’ve reached certain milestones in their respective therapies.

“There needs to be some step downs,” Turner said. “Where we lose our people is this continuity of care. We have clients waiting a month before he or she can get into the programs because of the limited space and housing issues. We need a bigger place. I don’t need somebody that’s three months into their ‘walk’ of getting cleaned up and going to their counseling to be housed with somebody who’s going through detox. They need to be separated. I don’t need them around that mindset anymore.”

Recently, Turner and other representatives from Boone County toured the Marion County’s new justice center. When asked what the takeaway from that tour was, Turner replied, “We went through and looked at all the court settings. Marion County is basically going to have all its courts inside their center to where an inmate or offender doesn’t get transported outside of the facility. They will bring him or her up an elevator and into a holding cell until they hold their courts.”

Turner continued, “That will probably never happen in Boone County, and Marion County is still warehousing people. That is not what we want here in Boone County, and I don’t think warehousing people is the answer. If we can get the Justice Center built, we will be able to show—statistically—on a state or national level that Boone County’s Justice Center concept is working, [and] this will be duplicated within 10 years in other counties and states around the nation. The sheriff is someone who pushes things forward, and he [Nielsen] sees the big picture. I’m very thankful for him and his office and what they have done for us in the last eight to nine years. He still has compassion and empathy in his heart.”

Saving One Person at a Time

Turner believes in the power of words and the effect they have on his clients.

“I will say to a client, ‘I believe in you. You can do this.’ And sometimes the look that they give me or the response that they give me dumbfounds me,” Turner shared. “I often hear from them, ‘Nobody’s ever told me that.’ All the classes that we do inside of here try to net catch the majority of our clients that come in here. They usually sign up for multiple classes, and that’s another reason why the Justice Center is a must—we have to have a bigger facility.”

During one of the public meetings held to discuss the proposed Justice Center, Turner recalled a man from the audience standing up and asking if the jail programs are really working.

“It doesn’t affect you until it affects you or a family member, personally,” Turner said. “And then they [the public] see the light of day. It’s sad to me, but I think that’s the result of a lack of education on our behalf. When the man stood up and asked if these programs are really helping anybody, I thought, ‘Damn, if you could walk in my shoes, that question wouldn’t even be worthy of the air you just wasted to ask it.’ The more we help the clients inside of here, it ultimately trickles out and it helps our law enforcement, our county as the recidivism rate drops and the mortality rate drops. All of these things are tied together. And if I save one [person], then it’s worth everything I’ve put in during a week, and it will continue to gain momentum.”

To see how the BCSO’s programs have affected a local resident click here: living in boone county client-testimonial

Boone County Shines a Light on the Road to Recovery and Rehabilitation: A BCSO Client Testimonial

As previously reported, the Boone County Sheriff’s Office’s (BCSO) primary focus remains on the rehabilitation of its inmates or “clients” and reducing the recidivism rate, albeit the county jail’s current recidivism rate is at 17%—down from 44%. BSCO attributes the success of its behavioral health and rehabilitation programs, such as the Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program and Jail Chemical Addictions Program (JCAP), to the success the department has seen throughout Sheriff Michael Nielsen’s tenure.

Sheriff Michael Nielsen

In this series, we have included some current and former BSCO inmates’ testimonials. In their own words, they have shared their intimate and authentic stories in hopes that the public realizes the value of BCSO’s programs as well as how far compassion and empathy go toward the effort of changing lives and even more important—saving lives.

Additionally, if someone is struggling with addiction and mental health issues, these folks hope that their stories might encourage others to make the commitment to start living a better life by reaching out and seeking help today.

Ms. Paula Adams—In Her Own Words

My name is Paula Adams. I am 35 years old. I’m praying that this letter touches the hearts of the right people so that there can be a chance for others out there like me.

I’m sure my story is similar to ones you have heard before. I grew up in a small town. I have a great family—a lot of love and support, but none of that stopped the insidious disease of addiction running complete chaos through my life.

I’ve been battling addiction for over 19 years. It started when I became pregnant at a young age. I didn’t realize I was becoming addicted until it was too late—which you never do, so don’t fool yourself! In short, I started off with pain meds which progressed to all opiates then quickly to heroin, cocaine, meth, pretty much whatever. My life spiraled out of control very quickly.

I know now that landing in the Boone County jail the day I did was a blessing.

I know now that landing here in the Boone County jail the day I did was a blessing. It definitely wasn’t my first arrest, but it was a pivotal point in my life. The day I woke up, finally the help was already there that I so desperately needed. They have so many programs. Please keep in mind I’ve had sobriety before and graduated rehab, but there was still something missing. First, there is a program called Matrix— criminal justice settings based on cognitive behavioral health and skills to change your thinking. If you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting what you have always got.

There is also JCAP, which helps with the trauma, life skills, addiction, grief and loss. There are two different classes. They really get to know you individually. It’s right up there with intensive inpatient. Now, recovery coaches help you to get plugged in with the world, meetings doctors, rehabs, etc. They help you to learn to talk and be an adult. Last but not least, we have a MAT program where we are put on various types of medications to best suit what we need to get all of our levels back of serotonin dopamine, endorphins. Addicts’ brains are out of balance for up to two years, sometimes more. With medication our families feel safer upon release and so do we. I really can’t believe all of these programs are right here. We have a solid foundation being built inside. I would love to see this continue to grow and be a part of it one day. No one will ever be able to guarantee me success, but I can say I’m way closer. I want to thank my heavenly father and Boone County jail.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Paula Adams

Building Infrastructure Today for Tomorrow’s Boone County

The Boone County Commissioners’ and Boone County Highway Department’s schedules are already in high gear looking at completing and commencing existing and new county projects throughout the 2022 new year. Commissioners Tom Santelli and Jeff Wolfe, along with Boone County Highway Department Director Nick Parr, shared details on some of the county’s most significant projects.

The Boone County Highway Department has several projects that are in various stages of development and/or construction. The projects can be categorized into Bridge, Expansion & Safety and Maintenance projects.

The Boone County Highway Department is responsible for the 191 bridges that have a span of 20 or more feet on all roads in Boone County that are not state highways. Every two years, inspections are performed on every bridge structure, and a project priority list is developed based on the conditions found during these inspections and available funding. The highway department recently updated the inventory of small structures (<20 ft) and through $5.3mm in bonds have accelerated the replacement and repair of these smaller structures.

Bridge Projects

Bridge rehabilitations and replacements require structural analysis and the preparation of detailed design plans. These projects are typically much more expensive and often require the county to leverage federal funding to offset the design and/or construction costs. When federal funding is utilized, the project development process takes much more time due to the additional requirements and approvals that must be met with the expenditure of federal funding. The link below highlights the bridge projects that are already in or will soon be in the project development process: https://boonecounty.in.gov/offices/highway/projects/bridge-projects/.

Expansion and Safety Projects

Road expansion projects include improvements such as new roadways on new alignment, reconstruction of existing roadways and projects where travel lanes are being added (e.g., upgrade from two lanes to four). Road safety projects involve work such as intersection upgrades and curve corrections.

These projects are more expensive than road maintenance and surface treatment projects and often require the county to leverage state or federal funding to offset the design and/or construction costs. When federal funding is utilized, the project development process takes much more time due to the additional requirements and approvals that must be met with the expenditure of federal funding. The link below highlights the road expansion and safety projects that are already in or will soon be in the project development process: https://boonecounty.in.gov/offices/highway/projects/road-expansion-safety-projects/.

Roadway Conversion Program

The Boone County transportation network includes over 300 miles of gravel roadways. Although it would be nice to convert all the gravel roadways to a hard surface, the county does not have the resources available to do so. We will be looking at the potential funds which may come available through HR 3684.

The Highway Department developed a formal road conversion program in 2018.

Their funds are limited, and the need is much greater than their resources. Therefore, a formal application process utilizing a systematic decision tool was developed to help the department identify the best candidate roadways for conversion from gravel to hard surface. This decision tool will calculate a roadway’s “conversion score” based on several criteria that are important to evaluate when considering hard surfacing a roadway.

The Highway Department has identified several top candidate roadways for conversion and developed an initial conversion list; however, a major component of the Highway Department’s conversion program includes an opportunity for Boone County residents to submit road conversion requests/applications for their roadway to be scored and added to the master conversion list.

Applications and additional info can be located at https://boonecounty.in.gov/offices/highway/roadway-conversion-program/.

The Highway Department has identified several top candidate roadways for conversion and developed an initial conversion list; however, a major component of the Highway Department’s conversion program includes an opportunity for Boone County residents to submit road conversion requests/applications for their roadway to be scored and added to the master conversion list.

Applications and additional info can be located at https://boonecounty.in.gov/offices/highway/roadway-conversion-program/.

President Biden’s Infrastructure Bill

When asked what impact the president’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill will have on local county projects, Wofle replied, “We don’t know yet. When you start taking the amount and dividing the amount by a number of state governments and municipalities, that really isn’t a very big number. So, do I expect the availability of significant funding through HR 3684 or the Infrastructure and Jobs Act which passed into law 11/15 2021 and became Public Law No. 117-58. We need to be prepared for this, but everything at the federal level comes with a price. There’s matching dollars and federal requirements. We’ve got a long way to go before we know what this infrastructure bill is going to really mean to Boone County.” We will ensure our projects are far enough along to take advantage of the new funding as this comes available to us.

Commissioner Jeff Wolfe

Wolfe continued, “What I would expect to see [in this infrastructure bill] are some larger pieces of this set aside for economic development types of infrastructure projects—meaning roads and bridges—that have a significant impact on a local economic development areas.”

For Indiana we expect:

$6.6 billion in highway improvements

$401 million for bridge replacement and repairs

$682 million for improving public transportation across the state

$300 million for electric charging stations across the state

$100 million to help improve broadband access

Bridges, Small Structures and Broadband

Wolfe stated, “A couple of really significant things to remember going forward is that we are addressing those small structures that are weight rated and width restricted, and that’s what our bonds did last year. Additional significant projects that Nick [Parr] is planning are some [road] conversion programs for next year—converting gravel roads to paved roads.”

Santelli added, “The bigger projects that are going to impact our area is INDOT is going to completely redo the I-865 corridor, going as far as U.S. 31. They have just started the engineering work.

Commissioner Tom Santelli

This project will have a major impact in our area, and I’m on that team and have talked with INDOT specifically about the Michigan Road [U.S. 421] interchange with I-465. That interchange is currently in need of significant updating, so INDOT is taking a harder look at that with my input.”

The county is working from a BF&S civil engineering study that detailed all the county’s infrastructure needs over the next five to 10 years.

“We found through this study that our [county’s] biggest needs are bridges and small structures,” Parr said. “That was addressed at the County Council meetings, as well as the need for a substantial funding increase in order to get [to] many of these structures—which are too narrow for agricultural equipment to get across or are weight rated so they are not safe enough or strong enough for agricultural equipment or loaded semis to drive across.”

While federal aid dollars are available for these types of local infrastructure projects, they are matched 80-20, so the county has to provide 20% of the project’s cost.

Boone County Highway Department Director Nick Parr

“The BF&S study also recommended that we [the county] continue to use mechanisms such as the Community Crossings Matching Grant (CCMG),” Parr added. “The state will fund 50% of the construction of the project. Additionally, the Boone County council issued $5.3 million in bonds in 2020, and we intend to renew those bonds when they are paid off in 2025, 2026 and 2027. This will allow us to bring those weight-rated and width-restricted structures up to current standards.”

Parr shared that the county is currently working with utility companies on the Templin Road bridge project in Zionsville. Trees have been removed from the project site so that utilities can be relocated, and the project is expected to begin April 1, 2022, weather permitting and assuming the utility companies complete their relocation work. This will be a full road closure while they replace that structure and is expected to last up to 120 days.

In addition to repairing/replacing small structures and bridges throughout the county, the commissioners are laser-focused on expanding the county’s broadband services to the rural areas.

“With the distribution of ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] funds, we [Boone County] set aside $2 million for pushing the broadband effort into the Sugar Creek area,” Santelli explained. “We are working with Charter—which is Spectrum—to deliver a 10-to-one or as much as a 20-to-one impact. So, that means for $250,000, we will get $2.5 million, to $5.0 million of work done for broadband [services]. Charter is working with Boone REMC for the pole connects because most of what Charter is doing now is all aerial fiber optics.”

Santelli stated that broadband is becoming much like an electric, gas or water utility. “Broadband has become an essential service,” Santelli said. “So, what’s happening is the federal government has money that they are giving to these [service providers] and are funding programs through the states not only for the [service] connections but also for programs that provide basic broadband service to those who qualify for less than $10 a month. There’s a sliding scale on affordability and things like that, and then there’s also the ability to get the hardware at little to no cost. So, [broadband] companies are working on programs like that too. We [the county] can incentivize these companies to give them a bigger reach, if you will. Currently, we’re incentivizing Charter, and we’re in the middle of evolving right now as we move through this.”

The county is working from a BF&S civil engineering study that detailed all the county’s infrastructure needs over the next five to 10 years.

“We found through this study that our [county’s] biggest needs are bridges and small structures,” Parr said. “That was addressed at the County Council meetings, as well as the need for a substantial funding increase in order to get [to] many of these structures—which are too narrow for agricultural equipment to get across or are weight rated so they are not safe enough or strong enough for agricultural equipment or loaded semis to drive across.”

While federal aid dollars are available for these types of local infrastructure projects, they are matched 80-20, so the county has to provide 20% of the project’s cost.

“The BF&S study also recommended that we [the county] continue to use mechanisms such as the Community Crossings Matching Grant (CCMG),” Parr added. “The state will fund 50% of the construction of the project. Additionally, the Boone County council issued $5.3 million in bonds in 2020, and we intend to renew those bonds when they are paid off in 2025, 2026 and 2027. This will allow us to bring those weight-rated and width-restricted structures up to current standards.”

Parr shared that the county is currently working with utility companies on the Templin Road bridge project in Zionsville. Trees have been removed from the project site so that utilities can be relocated, and the project is expected to begin April 1, 2022, weather permitting and assuming the utility companies complete their relocation work. This will be a full road closure while they replace that structure and is expected to last up to 120 days.

In addition to repairing/replacing small structures and bridges throughout the county, the commissioners are laser-focused on expanding the county’s broadband services to the rural areas.

“With the distribution of ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] funds, we [Boone County] set aside $2 million for pushing the broadband effort into the Sugar Creek area,” Santelli explained. “We are working with Charter—which is Spectrum—to deliver a 10-to-one or a 20-to-one impact. So, that means for $250,000, we will get $4 million of work done for broadband [services]. Charter is working with Boone REMC for the pole connects because most of what Charter is doing now is all fiber optics.”

Santelli stated that broadband is becoming much like an electric, gas or water utility.

“Broadband has become an essential service,” Santelli said. “So, what’s happening is the federal government has money that they are giving to these [service providers] and are funding programs through the states not only for the [service] connections but also for programs that provide basic broadband service to those who qualify for less than $10 a month. There’s a sliding scale on affordability and things like that, and then there’s also the ability to get the hardware at little to no cost. So, [broadband] companies are working on programs like that too. We [the county] can incentivize these companies to give them a bigger reach, if you will. Currently, we’re incentivizing Charter, and we’re in the middle of evolving right now as we move through this.”