IYI focuses on help, hope

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KPC News on 10/27/2019

“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” — author Neil Postman

The Indiana Youth Institute, with the assistance of a $1.25 million grant from the Office of Juvenile and Delinquency Prevention, is developing programs to assist children impacted by the opioid crisis.

The pilot projects, in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Project Leadership, will serve youth in eight Indiana counties: five of the eight are rural and two have non-fatal opioid overdose rates that are significantly higher than the statewide rate.

The aim is to increase the number of youth who are mentored by an adult with specialized training in opioid addiction and related challenges.

Indiana ranks 16th in the nation for the number of drug overdose deaths. In 2017, 1,138 Hoosiers died from opioid drug overdoses, a 215% increase from 2012. Almost every Hoosier county has experienced opioid drug overdose deaths from heroin or prescription opioids in the past five years.

Tami Silverman, president of the IYI, said Indiana lacks “programs for kids when Mom or Dad has to go into treatment or prison. Kids are tired at school, not well fed and can’t learn because of the home environment. We have to address it at some point and the sooner the better.”

The pilot program nearest to us is with Big Brothers Big Sisters in Elkhart.

IYI serves professionals such as teachers, coaches, youth group leaders, foster parents and parents with local training and webinars.

In addition to the opioid pilot programs, Silverman said an important IYI focus is teen suicide prevention, especially through wellness initiatives provided by coaches who talk with young athletes about depression and anxiety.

“We have trained coaches (for) conversations with team members about nutrition, sleep, stress and anxiety,” Silverman said.

“We see more anxiety and depression among young people and unfortunately that corresponds to the suicide rate.”

Some people believe the stress caused by social media increases depression and anxiety.

“There is a lot of pressure on kids to get fantastic grades and be in a lot of activities to super achieve,” she said. “We have kids who feel stressed about achievement and we have kids who express stress because they don’t see a bright future for themselves.”

At Youth Worker Cafes — more than 200 across Indiana — IYI professionals have found top concerns are (1) anxiety and depression in youth and (2) overcoming barriers to mental health treatment.

In northeast Indiana, a Youth Worker Cafe is planned for Nov. 5, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Romer’s Restaurant, 211 S. Detroit St., LaGrange.

The event is free but advance registration is required at iyi.org or call 317-396-2700 or toll-free 800-343-7060.

In December, at IYI’s signature event — the annual Kids Count conference — more than 1,000 people will connect to gain knowledge and rejuvenation. It is the Midwest’s largest gathering of youth-serving professionals.

When we work to ease the challenges faced by our youth entire communities benefit.

OUR VIEW is written on a rotating basis by Dave Kurtz, Grace Housholder, Michael Marturello and Steve Garbacz. Publisher Terry Housholder is also a member of the editorial board. We welcome readers’ comments.