By Cheryl Fuhrmann

The focus on mental health and its many related issues that plague our society has recently begun to generate attention on the local, state, and national levels. It is now understood that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have far-reaching implications on the future lives of children. These ACEs may include parental divorce, parental incarceration, a parent that struggles with mental illness, a parent with substance abuse issues, living in poverty, experiencing food insecurity, homelessness, lack of quality healthcare, lack of emotional support, or exposure to violence and/or physical, sexual, mental, or emotional abuse. To make matters worse, far too many of the children with high ACE scores come from families that are uninsured or underinsured and as a result go without access to the necessary mental health services that can help minimize the effects of the ACEs.
Over time, ACEs often affect a child’s academic performance, lessening their chances of graduating from high school, acquiring secondary higher education, and their ability to get and keep a job. ACEs will also increase their chances of developing mental illness, as well as their risk of involvement with substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, self-mutilation, suicidal ideation, becoming incarcerated, and living in poverty. In short, the cycle perpetuates itself generation after generation, and ultimately becomes the epidemic we are witnessing in today’s society.
Bleak as all this may sound, the picture becomes even more dismal if we lack access to quality and affordable mental health services. Currently, the national ratio of residents to mental health providers is 310 to 1. Here in Montgomery County, that ratio is more than triple the national average at 1010 residents to every 1 provider. To say the least, we have a problem.
The extent of the problem has exploded so quickly in such a short time, we are overwhelmed. With the help of grants locally, statewide, and nationally, many service providers have started looking deeper into these many issues and how we can provide the best care, address the multiplicity of issues that feed the problem, and work on reversing the direction of this national epidemic.
That is precisely the heart of what we have set out to do right here in Montgomery County. At 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 10, Dusk-to-Dawn Bereavement Services is hosting a communitywide meeting of the minds over breakfast at the Youth Service Bureau Community Room, 808 W Pike St, Crawfordsville. We intend to start a conversation on what it may take to collectively address these many problems and improve service and the lives of those suffering with mental health issues. Your voice is important to support this effort in our community. For more information or to register in advance email: ckfdusk2dawn@gmail.com.