The Chandler Center for the Arts, usually the venue for arts and entertainment, will likely sport a somber mood on Saturday.
Addiction treatment facility Valley Hope of Chandler is organizing a march starting at 7 a.m. from its premises on Arizona Avenue north of Chandler Boulevard to the arts center about 1.5 miles away. “Voices of Hope” participants will walk to help end the stigma of addiction, celebrate those in recovery and make an impact in the community.
From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the same day and at the same venue, the Chandler Police Department is presenting a community event titled “A Focus on Understanding & Hope” to also emphasize creating awareness, removing stigma and finding resources for mental, health, physical or mental disabilities and addiction.
“We are in the middle of an epidemic,” said Mariah Hile, a spokeswoman from Valley Hope. “The march is a rallying point for the community to come together to know that recovery is possible.”
Hile has seen hundreds of people come through the doors at Valley Hope with a cry for help. In the same manner, Chandler Police Officers Loranda Tibble and Melissa Lotz have seen the effects of mental health illness on families.
As of July 8, Chandler PD answered 179 calls for mentally disturbed persons, about 242 calls for suicide attempts and received 179 orders from doctors to transport mental health patients to a facility. During the same time frame, the department serviced 1,741 welfare check calls, although it is unknown how many of these were related to mental health issues.
Last year, Tibble and Lotz brought together agencies and resources at a similar event, also at the arts center, and about 125 attended.
“I wanted to learn more about how to help more family members and friends,” Tibble said. “Numerous times a day, we would go to calls where people were having a crisis because of a mental illness. I wanted to be able to give resources and help families because every time we’d go to these calls, they would say they felt helpless.”
The two officers subsequently underwent the 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training provided by the Police Department, which was helpful and inspiring, they said.
This year’s event reaches even farther with more than 50 agencies offering education and information, 11 presentations on topics ranging from PTSD to what a substance abuse problem looks like and free crisis intervention training for police officers and security guards.
“We’re trying to bring the community together with the Police Department and educate everybody, not just somebody who may have one or another issue,” Lotz said. ‘We want to erase the stigma, we want to educate people, we want to enable people, we want to provide resources and have everybody network.”
Lotz noted that the one common goal of service organizations is to help people.
“We’ll put everybody under the same roof,” she said.
Asked to describe what the two officers encounter on an almost daily basis during the course of their work, Lotz said that the word “struggle” best fits it.
“People are struggling, families and friends struggle and co-workers struggle because they don’t know how to help people. That’s one of the reasons we’re trying to do this,” she said. “We want to help everybody.”
The Chandler Police Department program is free. Information: 480-782-4800.