Sunrise Rotary Club Celebrates Successful 12th Annual Community Forum

Outstanding Panel Leads Discussion on “Mental Illness and Criminal Justice: Can Minnesota Do Better?”

St. Paul Sunrise Rotary Club’s 12th Annual Community Forum on April 20th - “Mental Illness and Criminal Justice: Can Minnesota do Better” – brought together more than 120 community members and Rotarians to learn more about a difficult and persistent issue.
 Three expert panelists discussed complex challenges facing law enforcement and medical professionals when individuals with mental illnesses are incarcerated. The panelists were:
  • Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy
  • Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota, Sue Abderholden
  • Director of Psychiatry, Hennepin County Medical Center, Dr. Edwardo Colón.
MPR’s Tom Crann skillfully guided the panelists through specific categorical questions, and then challenged them to each describe their ideas for better outcomes.  At the end of the hour, several audience members posed additional questions for the panelists.
The Forum was broadcast twice in its entirety on Minnesota Public Radio following the Forum. A recording of the broadcast is available on MPR's website, along with a wealth of additional information about this critical issue.
Two county commissioners, Jim McDonough and Mary Jo McGuire, Ramsey County under-sheriff Joe Padget, and other law enforcement professionals, plus several mental health practitioners, were in attendance.
Each panelist described their organizations’ approaches to the issue - incarceration and criminal justice; NAMI purpose and initiatives; and medical community protocols and resources.
They also shared stories of stigma barriers and their own ideas about strategies that work best, including specific investments in Minnesota that are working.
Joseph Kovarik, audience member, and former Rotary District Governor said, “I left the program realizing how difficult it is to resolve the choices of jail versus hospital and incarceration versus treatment.  What a disturbing dilemma it is for all those who address mental health needs.  
Assembled was an impressive panel of experienced and knowledgeable professionals who were forthright in their observations.  So much was said in so short a time.”'
Student Produced Film Premieres at Forum
Sunrise Rotary Club President Ed Marek and Ellen Luepker, who chaired the Forum Planning Committee, launched the program by introducing a student-produced video Public Service Announcement on the importance of stopping the cycle of alcohol addiction. Break the Cycle was written, filmed and edited by a small group of students at St Paul’s Gordon Parks High School. The film set a tone for the hour ahead by showing how chemical dependency and the stigma of mental illness begins early in life. 
Past community forum topics included:
The State of Race in Minnesota: Then and Now
Finding Common Ground for Common Good: The Impact of Campaign Finance
Health Care Affordability: Learning From History, Moving Forward
Gun Violence Prevention: Exploring Common Ground
Postsecondary Education Options, Access, Value and Debt
Bullying/Harassment Prevention: Everyone’s Responsibility
Being Muslim in Minnesota: A Community Conversation
Economic Outlook in These Turbulent Times
Strategies for The New Carbon Economy
News Business in Turmoil: Which Way Journalism
Navigating Ideological Minefields While Working for The Common Good