Panelists agree mental health is a top Valley issue


By Amanda Tonoli

atonoli@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Mental health is an overarching problem in the Mahoning Valley, say City Club of the Mahoning Valley panelists.

The topic was discussed during Monday night’s second annual State of the Valley Address at Stambaugh Auditorium.

Patricia Sweeney, Mahoning County health commissioner; Traci Hostetler, Mahoning County Education Service Center superintendent; Karen Schubert, Lit Youngstown’s director; and Sarah Boyarko, Youngstown/Warren Regional chamber’s chief operating officer; served as panelists.

In a survey conducted by Mahoning County’s mental health board, Sweeney said 34 percent of those responding in the county-wide survey said they were unable to care for themselves or go to work due to mental health issues.

“It won’t matter what jobs are available if you’re feeling that poorly,” she said.

Hostetler agreed, saying: “Our biggest challenge is mental health,” she said.

With regard to resources, however, Hostetler said money is “not just going to be handed to a district superintendent. It’s going to be dedicated to certain services.”

“We will be working on significant developmental base issues holding [students] back from what they could be,” she noted.

Panelists were asked how they view the state of the Valley.

“Arts rich, I see arts everywhere I look,” Schubert said.

“The future of the Valley is future focused,” Hostetler said. “We are really looking at each child seeing what their dreams are and their hopes are, and their skills are and their talents are. We hope to enlighten students and connect them with opportunities.”

Boyarko said there is a very promising and active pipeline of opportunities.

Andrew DeFratis, Alzheimer’s Association communications and public policy director, said he liked the format of the State of the Valley Address – with four city leaders as panelists.

“These are the movers and shakers of community and that conversation needs to work both ways,” he said.

Matt Martin, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership executive director, agreed with DeFratis.

“It’s awesome to have a city club ... to just to be able to create a town-hall, village square kind of center for ideas to be shared,” he said.

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