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Scott Fadness: “Spending quality time with friends and family is a top priority”

Fishers is known for affluence and low crime, so mental health was never really top of my mind. That was until late 2014 when I found out that the majority of immediate detentions made by law enforcement in the city were related to mental health issues. Once per shift in the city of roughly 90,000 […]


Fishers is known for affluence and low crime, so mental health was never really top of my mind. That was until late 2014 when I found out that the majority of immediate detentions made by law enforcement in the city were related to mental health issues. Once per shift in the city of roughly 90,000 residents, officers detain people — including students — because they present a threat to themselves or others. After I found out that we weren’t really doing anything around mental health, I knew the city had to step in. We then launched a citywide effort to build up mental health supports, including a large focus on the city’s schools. The schools got new therapists, emergency response officials received new training, and public officials — from school employees to police — began working more collaboratively. I firmly believe that the country doesn’t need more hardening measures, but we need to be more porous. We need to understand why these things are happening in our schools and our community and work together to get to the root cause and fix the issue, rather than simply throwing up more bars and metal detectors to “weed out” the bad. In 2016, the City of Fishers launched the Stigma-Free Fishers campaign, a community-wide outreach campaign that challenges residents to learn more about mental health, to see the person and not the illness, and to join our efforts toward creating a stigma-free community. As a result of this campaign, our local high schools began student-led Stigma Free clubs (now part of the national Bring Change to Mind campaign), to spread the message and provide an outlet for youth while sharing ideas around mental health in a safe environment. In addition to our public outreach campaign, we’ve addressed the stigma that may come alongside our public safety responses. As part of a comprehensive overhaul of our processes and protocols for the Fishers Fire Department and Fishers Police Department, first responders have been trained to appropriately handle mental health crises.


As a part of my series about “Mental Health Champions” helping to normalize the focus on mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Scott Fadness, Mayor of Fishers, Indiana. Prior to his election as Fishers’ first mayor, Scott Fadness served as Town Manager from 2011–2014 and Deputy Town Manager of Operations from 2009–2011 overseeing the day-to-day operations of public works, engineering, fleet management, and parks and recreation. As Town Manager, he reorganized town departments to streamline government services, create greater efficiencies and save Fishers’ taxpayers millions of dollars — all while doubling Fishers’ cash reserves. His dedication to fiscal responsibility earned him the Government Finance Officers’ Association “Distinguished Budget Award” three years in a row. Fadness holds a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from Indiana University and is a member of the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), and the Indiana Controllers Affiliate Group. He lives in Fishers with his wife and two sons.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

Pursuing an elected office was never on my list of career aspirations. A little more than 11 years ago, I was hired as a budget intern as a graduate student for the then-Town of Fishers. Since that time, I’ve held several positions within our city’s government. In 2014, when the residents of Fishers voted to transition Fishers from a Town to a City, I was Town Manager. As Town Manager, I knew there were more projects and goals to make Fishers a smart, vibrant, and entrepreneurial city, so I decided to run for Mayor and won the election. For the past 5 years, I have held the position as our city’s first mayor.

According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?

I believe there are several factors at play with the stigma around mental health. Each generation has approached mental illness differently, and while we’ve made great strides, it is still very much part of family culture and generational culture to hide mental illness. Another reason is because of poor public policy. At the state and federal levels, being diagnosed with a mental illness can lead to criminalization and implications on employment and insurance. Until we can address these challenges, Americans will continue to experience challenges when it comes to access to care, and combating stigma.

Can you tell our readers about how you are helping to de-stigmatize the focus on mental wellness?

Fishers is known for affluence and low crime, so mental health was never really top of my mind. That was until late 2014 when I found out that the majority of immediate detentions made by law enforcement in the city were related to mental health issues. Once per shift in the city of roughly 90,000 residents, officers detain people — including students — because they present a threat to themselves or others. After I found out that we weren’t really doing anything around mental health, I knew the city had to step in. We then launched a citywide effort to build up mental health supports, including a large focus on the city’s schools. The schools got new therapists, emergency response officials received new training, and public officials — from school employees to police — began working more collaboratively. I firmly believe that the country doesn’t need more hardening measures, but we need to be more porous. We need to understand why these things are happening in our schools and our community and work together to get to the root cause and fix the issue, rather than simply throwing up more bars and metal detectors to “weed out” the bad.

In 2016, the City of Fishers launched the Stigma-Free Fishers campaign, a community-wide outreach campaign that challenges residents to learn more about mental health, to see the person and not the illness, and to join our efforts toward creating a stigma-free community. As a result of this campaign, our local high schools began student-led Stigma Free clubs (now part of the national Bring Change to Mind campaign), to spread the message and provide an outlet for youth while sharing ideas around mental health in a safe environment.

In addition to our public outreach campaign, we’ve addressed the stigma that may come alongside our public safety responses. As part of a comprehensive overhaul of our processes and protocols for the Fishers Fire Department and Fishers Police Department, first responders have been trained to appropriately handle mental health crises.

Was there a story behind why you decided to launch this initiative?

In late 2014, I was riding along with a Fishers Police officer, as I often do, and during the course of our conversation, I asked him what concerned him most about crime or safety in Fishers. His response surprised me: immediate detentions. Following that conversation, we began our journey to comprehensively addressing mental illness in our community. It wasn’t until this initial conversation that we even realized there was a real problem in Fishers. From that moment, we asked ourselves: if a community was to marshal its collective resources, what could it do and what should it do to combat mental illness? Our Mental Health Initiative was essentially born out of this experience.

In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?

While the idea behind many communities’ approach to mental health are good in theory, the ideas lack in execution. Local government, health care professionals and education administrators need to understand that, with the power of information, comes great responsibility. Information alone isn’t enough — there must be a systems approach to determine the best course of action for the information collected. A virtuous cycle of information exchange between systems needs to be established, with local government, education, public safety, healthcare and residents working together.

We’ve successfully implemented this information flow for our schools in Fishers, Ind. through a memorandum of understanding with the local hospital and our police department. If a student is immediately detained or hospitalized for a mental health crisis, the school is notified to ensure the student receives appropriate attention upon discharge. We need to understand what is causing the crisis.

I believe it’s critical for everyone to intentionally connect people to people. This is where I’ve seen the most impact on our efforts. It’s important that we see the person suffering from mental illness — not just the disease.

What are the 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

  1. Exercise: Keeps up my energy and gives me some time to clear my mind.
  2. Music: You can often find me listening to music in the evenings to unwind
  3. Spending quality time with friends and family is a top priority.
  4. Embrace failure. I get energized by pursuing new ideas and challenging the status quo. That can lead to failure, much like entrepreneurship, but I don’t define my success by those failures but use them to motivate my next idea.
  5. I don’t take myself too seriously.
  6. There’s no such thing as balance, but I believe in being intentionally present in whichever situation I’m in.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?

Recently, I watched Only God Knows Where I Am on Netflix. It provides a powerful look inside the realities of what the lack of integrated mental health care can do to someone suffering from mental illness.

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