FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Corralling resources to help someone suffering from a mental health crisis is one of the more difficult things to do.

Allen County Superior Court Judge and the county’s mental health judge, Andrew Williams, has scheduled the first-ever Northeastern Indiana Regional Mental Health Summit Thursday to bring together the players – treatment providers, law enforcement, the judicial system, government services, mental health victims and their families and friends.

It’s free to the public.

“I recognize that in one day, we’re not going to solve all the problems related to our mental health system, but I want to begin the process,” Williams told WANE 15 this week.

The number of mental health filings in Allen County courts has tripled since 2015, Williams said, perhaps, because there is less stigma associated with advocating for someone with the illness.

Mental health filings are “things like emergency detention orders and petitions for involuntary commitment,” he said. “Those are combined into one statistic, but the filings have nearly tripled.”

In 2015, there were 800 mental health filings; in 2021, more than 2,100.

The pandemic brought about more awareness to the mental health crisis and the crisis is a regular topic at the monthly meetings of the Mental Health Task Force, he said. He’s wanted to do a summit like this, and the timing is right at this point.

“I want for us to convey information to one another,” Williams said. “Oftentimes, when it comes to mental health, there are silos. Everybody has their silo and they don’t venture out to talk to the people around them and to make sure everybody is on the same page.

“I want everybody to be on the same page and I want to start some conversations that maybe we haven’t had in the past, conversations between law enforcement, mental health providers, patients, family members of patients. I want to get all of these folks involved,” Williams continued.

Williams believes the stigma related to mental illness has decreased and people are better able to identify the problem.

“I think police officers are considering whether a person is mentally ill and whether they need to go to jail or to the hospital for treatment, more so than they ever have before,” Williams said.

The resources are available in Allen County, he said.

“People realize that the (resources) are good, that they can help and I think folks are more willing to seek treatment because they know we have resources here that can help them,” Williams said.

The summit begins at 7:30 a.m. and lasts until 4 p.m. with lunch provided. That’s why registration is important, Williams said. The summit will be held at the International Ballroom at the Walb Student Union at Purdue Fort Wayne.

Some of the people featured at the summit include Dr. Matthew Runyan, hospital section chief of Parkview’s psychiatry department; Jennifer Snyder, CEO of Maple Heights Behavioral Health; Dr. Rob Ryan of the Bowen Center and Danielle Flora of the Allen County Public Defenders Office.

Allen County Magistrate Phil Houck will speak on guardianships.

Speaking on available resources are leaders representing Maple Heights Behavioral Center, Bowen Center, Remedy Live, Carriage House, the Rescue Mission and Parkview.

In two of the five breakout sessions, experts will discuss medication management and Fort Wayne Police Officer Lisa Woods will speak on de-escalation.

Indiana’s Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch is scheduled to appear during the lunch hour at noon as well as other state and local officials, including Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, State Rep. Bob Morris and State Sen. Michael Crider.

Participants will be able to submit questions to panelists and interact with experts during breaks and lunch, according to a news release from the Allen Superior Court.

“This is a great opportunity, not just for Allen County but for our region,” Williams said. “The contiguous counties – we’ve included officials from those counties, law enforcement and treatment providers. We want to make sure we’re all on the same page.

“I think the goal is to help those who are truly vulnerable in our communities, help folks with mental illness. Mental illness is something that can affect anybody at any time. There is no rhyme or reason to it and if you don’t yourself suffer from a mental illness, then you probably know someone, a family member or close friend, who has struggled with mental illness and we want to do all we can to help those with mental illness,” Williams said.

Register online.