As a candidate for Zionsville Town Council At-Large, one of my first priorities will be to address both mental health disorders and substance abuse in Zionsville. As many families here already know, Zionsville is not a community that is immune to either of these illnesses.

It is time we collectively understand, identify and address the depth of these diseases in our town.

Today, Boone County has a suicide and drug overdose death rate higher than the national average. Key health officials rate substance abuse and mental health disorders as the first and second-highest priorities for the county.

Mental health disorders are fairly prevalent in Boone County as over 23% of residents have been diagnosed as having a depressive disorder and over 36% have sought treatment for it.

Addressing mental health disorders is difficult because of the stigma surrounding it as well as access to and cost of treatment. Yet when these disorders remain untreated, the unfortunate results often are alcoholism and/or substance abuse and, at its most devastating outcome, suicide. Not only does the disorder affect the sufferer, it definitely affects their family and friends as well.

It is time to break this stigma and offer comprehensive support to those affected – especially with regards to our young people in Zionsville schools.

Substance abuse is also prevalent here, as over 20% of Boone County residents consider themselves excessive drinkers. Also, 3.4% have used illicit drugs in the PAST MONTH alone – a marked increase over prior years. However, only 3.6% have sought treatment for this disease.

Not acknowledging the stigma and lack of access to appropriate treatment are the major factors contributing to substance abuse in our community. And while substance abuse also affects the person, their family and friends, it can also result in the tragedy of overdose death and suicide.

Our community continues to address these issues with mixed success. I want to help drive this engagement in Zionsville – with health officials, first responders, school representatives, church groups and other local resources working together to decrease these disorders.

We must determine the extent of the problem in Zionsville and then work with town and county health officials to provide solutions that enhance the wellness of our entire community.

If elected as a Zionsville Town Council member, I will put forth a strong effort towards curbing the rise of substance abuse and addressing mental health disorders in our community.