Thursday, October 27, 2005


Comments of the Mayor about The PAIR Program

From a speech by the Honorable Bart Peterson, Mayor of Indianapolis, on March 2, 2005

See complete text here.

Stunning progress has been made in recent decades in the scientific treatment of the most serious mental illnesses: depression, schizophrenia and bi-polar disease. Lives that were unsalvageable just a few years ago are being turned around. We can help people reconstruct their lives and fulfill their potentials if we help them find and receive treatment. But the system for delivering and monitoring this treatment is barely functional.

We need more resources from the federal and state governments, but take a look at some of the good things started in Indianapolis recently. Community partners came together to create "Our Town," a mental health services program unique to Indiana that supports young adults from 18 to 25 with serious mental illnesses. The Crisis Intervention Team program provides training to law enforcement officials who might come in contact with those with mental illnesses. The training allows officers to avert potentially deadly confrontations and to keep those more in need of mental health treatment than jail time out of the criminal justice system. The PAIR program is focused on diversion to treatment from the criminal justice system after arrest in cases of minor offenses. And, the primary tool in the Blueprint to End Homelessness - supportive housing - is helping 40 men and women with mental illnesses and addictions in The Threshold Project.

These are examples of creative work that is making a difference in Indianapolis today. But we need to do more. We will work this year to replicate the PAIR diversion concept in other parts of the criminal justice system -- probation, for example. We will seek even earlier intervention within the system, such as at the Arrestee Processing Center. And, most importantly, we will fight for more resources for the treatment of serious mental illness. With these steps, we will improve the chances for a decent future for many people in our city, we will reduce jail overcrowding, and we will offer a broad ray of hope to the thousands of people in Indianapolis whose lives are touched by mental illness.

Mental illness is a health issue. So is obesity. The more nutritional information we print on food containers, the more data that comes out about all the diseases caused or made worse by obesity, the more we treat "carb" as a four-letter word, the heavier we get. The human consequences of this are, of course, the most important reason for us to care, but we should not ignore that dramatically rising health care costs threaten to consume all other budget priorities at all levels of government, and that American business is increasingly faced with a choice between keeping the company alive and providing adequate health care benefits to employees. More and more working Americans will become uninsured or underinsured.

Our responsibility is to make Indianapolis a healthier place. Many people are not aware that Indy Parks offers many low-cost health and fitness resources throughout Indianapolis. These include sports facilities and family centers that provide year-round recreation opportunities, including walking programs, aerobics, swimming, the greenways, and so much more. It's more fun and motivating to get in shape with other people! We have the pieces in place to help the people of our city move toward healthier lifestyles. This year, I am going to play my part to raise awareness about what resources are available and what you can do to improve your health, that of your family and of your friends and neighbors. They publish a list of the healthiest cities in America. I want Indianapolis on that list!

* * *

I stand here before you tonight as positive about the State of our city as I have ever been. We now have in place the resources and the will to fix the broken criminal justice system. Housing is now the priority in our city it needs to be. Tragedy has proven to be a catalyst to focus on our community's mental health needs. We are going to shape up together in Indianapolis and live longer, better lives! And, we have the right plan to get our fiscal house in order and complete the vision of Uni-Gov. Add to this the tower cranes sprouting across the city; economic success stories, including becoming the home of America's largest health benefits company - Wellpoint; the 2005 cultural convergence that has elevated our arts and culture; and you have one of this country's most dynamic cities refusing to rest on its laurels.

I have enjoyed my relationship with the members of the City-County Council. They are incredibly dedicated people who receive few tangible rewards for their long hours of service. They know, as I do, that beneath the headlines about the mega-deals and the blockbuster initiatives there is a more subtle, complex and ever-changing tapestry of big-city challenges and opportunities. I look forward to working with President Talley, the members of our City-County Council and the people of Indianapolis to influence the design of that tapestry. To make our city better. To leave this generation's mark on the Indianapolis success story.

Thank you and God bless you.

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