Heather Starkweather


January 21, 2022

Tippecanoe in Mental Health Crisis While Volunteer Counselors are Targeted

- Transcript -

On December 6th I attended a Legislative Forum - Issues Pertaining to Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the Tippecanoe County Building in Lafayette, IN.  Across town in West Lafayette their City Counsel was considering an ordinance that would target faith-based counselors. This ordinance threated to fine these counselors $1,000 every day if they were found in violation.  The unclear and nonspecific language even implied that counselors serving clients voluntarily seeking counseling services regarding their sexual identity would be targeted for fines.

As I heard updates about the critical state of counseling services in the state of Indiana, I found it quite bizarre to realize that the very people who are seeking to be a part of the solution were being targeted and intimidated across town. Faith Church provides counseling services free of charge in ministries in East Lafayette, North Lafayette, and West Lafayette as well as two residential centers.  Hundreds of hours a week are being provided to people who are suffering, often by volunteers who have completed a challenging training, testing, and supervised counseling certification process.  Why are these volunteers being challenged and threated fines by the West Lafayette City Council?

Is this really the time for divisiveness?  Why are we not working together when Indiana ranks 42 out of 51 states indicating a higher prevalence of mental health and substance abuse issues?  It was stressed in the forum that 26.8% of adults with mental illness reported that they were not able to receive the treatment they needed.  Our efforts should be focused on meeting the desperate needs of people in our community. Wouldn’t our time and energy be of much greater value to find ways to meet these needs together?  It is actually quite disturbing that time and energy is being used to try to stop counselors from counseling.

Another staggering statistic quoted at the forum was that 497,000 Hoosiers can’t get mental health services and there is a 4 month waiting list for outpatient psychiatry service in Tippecanoe County.  I would like to ask the West Lafayette City Counsel to stop trying to impede the important work being done and rather work to solve the problem of our current mental health provider shortage.

Even more staggering is the increase in suicides by 111% in 2021 over 2020.  When life and death is hanging in the balance, no time or effort should be spent working against any counselors who are currently helping people in crisis. There is critical work to be done and together we could all work more effectively rather than creating obstacles in the counseling realm.  Imagine if all the counsel members would meet with all the licensed and non-licensed counselors to find solutions to our mental health crisis in our community?  Great ideas and solutions to our mental health crisis in Indiana could result from such a meeting!  Rather than debating what we disagree about, let’s focus on what we have in common – a sincere desire to help hurting people!  I am convinced that together we could all meet crucial needs more effectively.

Heather Starkweather


licensed social worker and faith-based counselor

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