Faith leaders from the South Bend area gathered at the South Bend First Seventh-day Adventist Church on Sunday, April 24, to bring attention to the needs of improving the state's responses to crises. [Photo Courtesy of the Lake Union Herald]
United States | Beverly Sedlacek

Faith leaders from the South Bend, Indiana, area gathered at the South Bend First Seventh-day Adventist Church on Sunday, April 24, to bring attention to the needs of improving the state's responses to crises.

Members of the Saint Joseph County Chapter of Faith in Indiana, including South Bend’s Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor, Claval Hunter, helped organize the "We Make Indiana" event to encourage funding and support from local and state-elected officials for a statewide crisis response system to make the community safer.

“There are people in our city and state who are dealing with mental health issues and substance abuse, and we want them to know we care," said Pastor Hunter, host of "We Make Indiana." "We don't want any more handcuffs, and we want them to be able to get the treatment that they need."

"There are people in our city and our state who are dealing with mental health issues and substance abuse, and we want them to know we care," said Claval Hunter, who pastors the South Bend Berean Church. [Photo Courtesy of the Lake Union Herald]

"There are people in our city and our state who are dealing with mental health issues and substance abuse, and we want them to know we care," said Claval Hunter, who pastors the South Bend Berean Church. [Photo Courtesy of the Lake Union Herald]

The attention-grabbing theme, "Help, not Handcuffs," highlights the committee's goal to provide more help for those who struggle with mental health or addiction. The main initiative is for funding for a statewide crisis response system. Instead of first calling the police, a statewide crisis response system has been recommended so mental health and addiction specialists will be the first responders to a mental health or addiction crisis. Police are historically the first to be called. The individual is often handcuffed and carted off to jail instead of to a mental health professional evaluation and referral for the appropriate level of care and treatment.

Organizers of the event are passionate about the initiative because some know how it feels to be a victim of the current system, where police are first called, with no mental health professional involved.

"I know what it feels like not to have your father at your games; not to be able to have your father at your high school graduation," said Dion Payne-Miller, Faith in Indiana member. Payne-Miller stated that he wanted elected officials to fully commit to having sustainable funding for the statewide crisis response center so families are not adversely affected. "Our lives are at stake here; our families' lives are at stake here."

The Faith in Indiana town hall was represented by a cross-section of faith and political leaders, including, from left to right: Indiana State senator, Mike Bohacek; Evangel Heights United Methodist, Rev. Michelle Cobb; Faith in Indiana St. Joseph County chapter and community organizer, Andre Stoner; Berean Church intern, Chaka Samuel; Berean Church intern, Foluke Arthurton; Berean Church intern, Mario Cuevas; Black Church Coalition organizer with Faith in Indiana Indianapolis, Josh Riddick; Berean Church pastor, Claval Hunter; and South Bend First SDA Church pastor, Throstur Thordarson

The Faith in Indiana town hall was represented by a cross-section of faith and political leaders, including, from left to right: Indiana State senator, Mike Bohacek; Evangel Heights United Methodist, Rev. Michelle Cobb; Faith in Indiana St. Joseph County chapter and community organizer, Andre Stoner; Berean Church intern, Chaka Samuel; Berean Church intern, Foluke Arthurton; Berean Church intern, Mario Cuevas; Black Church Coalition organizer with Faith in Indiana Indianapolis, Josh Riddick; Berean Church pastor, Claval Hunter; and South Bend First SDA Church pastor, Throstur Thordarson

The 250 community members that came out rose to their feet when state Senator Linda Rogers and state Representative Maureen Bauer pledged to secure funding for the crisis response system in the 2023 legislative budget.

"They are committed to working with Faith in Indiana, and they are saying, 'we are going to find ways to help fund this crisis response system,' and so we got their commitment today," Hunter said.

In addition to participation in the crisis response initiative, the South Bend Berean Adventist Church, along with sister church, Maranatha, announced a march for peace to address the high level of violence in South Bend with a walk in the city. The church invited the community and faith leaders to join the Sabbath (May 14) event, helping spread the message of peace, not violence, and make our communities safe.

— Beverly Sedlacek is the South Bend Berean Church communication director; this article originally appeared on the Lake Union Herald website.

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