Faith Leaders Celebrate Groundbreaking

Author: Rebekah Go

Local faith leaders in South Bend, IN celebrated the dirtless groundbreaking of a new mental health facility in the community on Tuesday. This new 24 hour behavioral health center is the answer to a pressing need that members of the community have been identifying for years.

Program from Crisis Center Groundbreaking
The program from the Crisis Center Groundbreaking

In the past mental health practitioners had only been available to the public during normal business hours, Monday through Friday. This meant that mental health crises that happened in the evening, on weekends, or even in the dead of night were often scary and difficult to manage. Conversations amongst community leaders made it clear that more often than not, police departments were often the first responders to these frightening situations and they had very few options when a person was in need of immediate assistance: the local emergency room or jail, neither of which were well equipped to respond to such crises.

After identifying this pressing public health emergency, leaders from a diversity of faith traditions, organized by Faith in Indiana, began to explore alternatives and in May of 2021 proposed a crisis response center as an alternative. These leaders met with the mayor, city council members, county commissioners, the public health officer, and the sheriff - among other important stakeholders - to create buy-in to bring this resource to the community. However, then the question became funding: everyone agreed this was a needed solution but who would pay for it.

That’s when faith leaders galvanized their communities to speak at city and county council and commissioner meetings imploring the elected officials to utilize newly obtained American Rescue Plan monies to fund the center. Public pressure, press conferences, and even a state-wide campaign followed and after over 2 years of tireless efforts by community members, the “dirtless” groundbreaking is cause for celebration!

Rabbi Michael Friedland
Rabbi Michael Friedland leads a prayer for the group at the celebration following the groundbreaking.

As Rabbi Michael Friendland of Sinai Synagogue says, “mental health is an interfaith issue, mental health doesn’t care how or whether you pray to God. Therefore there should also be an interfaith commitment to work towards helping all who deal with mental health issues to find healing. That's why I am so grateful to have worked with our Faith in Indiana community to help make this center possible.”

The Ansari Institute's own communication and program manager, Rebekah Go, has been one of the members of Faith in Indiana’s Jail Diversion Working Group for several years and has found the work of collaboration with individuals from a variety of faith traditions to be one of the most exciting parts of the work. “It is because of my Christian faith that I am engaged in this work for the common good. But it is also through this work that I have been introduced to the similarities between my faith traditions and that of my friends from other backgrounds. Each of our traditions recognizes the dignity of the person and compels us to work for justice. And I find that deeply moving and incredibly beautiful.”

While Faith in Indiana leaders are excited to celebrate this victory, they recognize the work is not yet finished. Nevertheless for now, they take the time to celebrate and to breathe in the strengthened sense of community that has been a result of this shared effort. As Ms. Go says, “sometimes it is important to work together for the common good and sometimes it is just as important to tend to the wonderful relationships we have developed in our community and what better way than a party?!”