This week, the New Albany Community Foundation's Jefferson Series featured speaker Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman and advocate for families dealing with mental-health and addiction issues.
Kennedy ignited a national discussion about mental health and addiction after his memoir, "A Common Struggle," was published.
In the memoir and subsequent interviews, Kennedy addressed his famous family's struggles with mental illnesses and addictions.
Last year, the community foundation brought Mariel Hemingway, another member of a famous family that experienced mental illness, suicide and addiction, to New Albany. By presenting these speakers and making them available to central Ohio students, parents, educators and mental-health professionals, foundation leaders hoped to initiate a community dialogue and decrease the stigma surrounding mental-health issues.
After Hemingway's visit, the Rocky Fork Co. generously funded three evidenced-based programs being implemented in the New Albany-Plain Local School District.
More recently, caring benefactors established a "well-being" fund with the foundation to support future efforts.
These same community leaders are working in collaboration with district officials to create a best-in-class "well-being program" focused on students. The vision is to ensure that each student possesses a strong sense of well-being, which is defined as being healthy and happy, both physically and mentally.
The school district already had some good programs, but to be effective, the entire community must be engaged.
The mission of the initiative is to empower a caring community with resources that help maximize the well-being of each student.
To that end, Kennedy met with New Albany students and teachers and participated in an interactive session with mental-health and addiction professionals from across central Ohio.
We are grateful to foundation sponsors and donors Rick Bayer and Dan Bailey, as well as our partners at Nationwide Children's Hospital, the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, ADAMH, Concord Counseling Services and many others who are working with the district and Healthy New Albany on the well-being initiative.
Substance abuse, addiction and depression are unfortunate realities. Although we might be unable to insulate New Albany from these challenges, we can define how the community faces these challenges and work toward the safety and well-being of our young people.
Craig Mohre is president of the New Albany Community Foundation.