Crisis care center, affordable housing, narcan discussed at CAJE Action

April 25, 2016. Wave3News.

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) – New details are coming out about a possible mental health crisis care center coming to our community.

Members of CAJE, or Congregations Acting for Justice and Empowerment, discussed the issue at their annual action Monday night.

CAJE fights to get officers equipped with Narcan

Evansville, IN — Vanderburgh county has a suicide rate four times the national average. In 2014 alone there were a total of 52 suicides – an average of one each week!

With the growing popularity of heroin in the area, there is no denying that this city has an opioid problem.

That is why CAJE has worked over 16 months to equip all law enforcement first responders in Posey, Vanderburgh and Warrick counties with the life saving antidote Narcan.

CAJE focusing on mental health, housing

March 16, 2015. Evansville Courier & Press.

Maggie Petrig, a 71-year-old mother of five, is worried about access to mental health care in the area.

Her 33-year-old son suffers from mental illness. He’s also been in and out of prison and jail since he became an adult.

CAJE rally March 2015

Local officials have acknowledged that jails and prisons have become mental health facilities since deinstitutionalization, Petrig said, but that does nothing to help the problem.

“We’re trying to get a mental health court so that the mentally ill don’t have to be incarcerated. They need to be taken to center for help,” she said.

She told her story Monday evening to hundreds of members of area churches packed in the sanctuary of Nazarene Baptist Church for a rally organized by Congregations Acting for Justice and Empowerment.

Every year, the group hones in specific social issues and asks local elected officials to address specific deficiencies in the community.

This year it’s mental health care and access to affordable housing.

Juliana Cheatham, 50, told the crowd her continual struggle to housing in Evansville.

Cheatham is plagued with health issues that have had her in and out of hospitals for years. Every medical issue has set her back and left her starting from scratch time and time again, she said.

Now, she works at a gas station and lives at Ruth’s House with 24 other women.

“There isn’t any (affordable housing) out there,” she said before the event started. “It’s not just me that is dealing with this.”

According to CAJE, there are 10,000 area families who cannot find affordable housing.

Monday’s rally is a precursor to CAJE’s annual Nehemiah Action gathering. During the event, the group asks local official to address its targeted social issues. The event is set for April 20 at Old National Events Plaza.

What specifically the group will ask of local leaders hasn’t been set, yet.

Previous initiatives of Nehemiah Action program have included an expansion of METS bus service along the U.S. 41 North corridor to give workers from the Center City access to jobs and expansion of bus connections to Warrick County to give access to medical care. The group also worked to get an expanded number of convicted drug offenders into Vanderburgh County drug court and treatment programs for early release.

CAJE officials also updated the crowd on last year’s initiative of equipping first responders with an opiate overdose antidote.

While other agencies, like the Warrick County Sheriff’s Office, have equipped responders with the antidote the Evansville Police Department has not, and CAJE officials said Monday they’re not stopping their push for local police to carry what they said is a lifesaving tool.

Tri-State Deputies to be Equipped with Overdose Antidote

October 23, 2014.

Suicide, prescription pill abuse, and overdoses are three things often discussed not nearly enough.

But that discussion is happening in Warrick and Vanderburgh counties through the work of the sheriff’s offices and a local non-profit.

Beginning in early November, Sheriff’s Deputies in Warrick and Vanderburgh counties will be outfitted with what’s called Narcan. It’s a life-saving antidote for overdoses of heroin and some prescription pain medications.

The announcement was made today by CAJE, or Congregations Acting for Justice and Empowerment. Every year, the group focuses on an issue affecting the community. This year they focused on mental health.

In April, the group approached Warrick County Sheriff Brett Kruse and Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding about the possibility of having deputies carry Narcan with them.

Narcan quickly reverses the effects of opiates like morphine, methadone and heroin in the case of a life-threatening overdose.

“This is just another tool that if we’re out somewhere and EMS isn’t close nearby, it will give our deputies another tool to maybe reverse the effects of an overdose and it may save a life.”

“This may be something hopefully we never use but if you have the opportunity to save one person, it’s worth the money and the time spent on it.”

Sheriff Kruse says having Narcan available to his deputies is essential especially in rural parts of the county where ambulance service might be 10 or 15 minutes away. He says Narcan typically costs about 20 dollars a dose.

This comes after Vanderburgh County has made great strides in suicide prevention. Over the last decade, the county has averaged three suicides a month. That typically leads the state in suicides per capita. But over the last two months, no suicides have been reported. That’s the first time that’s happened since 2006.

Both agencies expect to be fully deployed with Narcan in early November.

The Group ‘C.A.J.E.’ Hosts Annual Meeting

April 10, 2014.

‘Do something,’ that’s what members of the group C.A.J.E ask city officials and community leaders to do, at the Coliseum in downtown Evansville. Hundreds gather for the group’s annual meeting to hear their wish list.

Congregations Acting for Justice and Empowerment is what C.A.J.E stands for. Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, County Councilman Tom Shetler, fire, and police officials, they were all in attendance, and ready to show their support.

The faith based group C.A.J.E calls themselves an action group. “I think they’ve made a difference before, and I think they will make a difference again,” says Jan Carpenter. Since last fall, members say they have been trying to find what’s important to their community. They say better access to mental and dental health are what people need. “I think it’s great. I think it’s really going to help the ones that need help,” says Linda Shoultz.

C.A.J.E. says the area’s overwhelming suicide rate has them asking every emergency provider to carry a narcan dose, to help suicides from drug overdoses, decrease. “If every emergency service provider had narcan on them, they could save somebody’s life,” says Paul Leingang with the group.

They ask leaders to support the ECHO Health Care Center’s referral program for dental care. They say as many as two-thousand people can be referred to a dentist, at a cost they can afford. “They want to hear, yes,” says Leingang.

In front of a crowd of hundreds, community leaders and elected officials say, yes. “What will make this happen is this agreement, and this partnership to make this work. It takes that kind of an agreement.”

Answering two questions, will you participate, and will you report the progress, gets the group known for taking action, closer to their goals. “To be able to assemble as many folks as C.A.J.E. can, with the same interests, and be able to go forward in that manner, is awesome,” says Gerald Arnold with C.A.J.E.

C.A.J.E.’s Annual Assembly will be October 27th. They will report the progress on the health and dental care advancements at the assembly.