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La Porte County Educators, HFL joined Indiana Organizations at Inaugural YES! Summit

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

There has never been a more pressing or urgent need for substance use prevention and mental health programs. Say YES! to our students.

On June 14, 2023, Healthcare Foundation of La Porte (HFL) joined the Indiana Department of Education, Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, and North Central Health Services, Inc., to bring together 300+ Indiana school leaders, education stakeholders, healthcare providers, funders, and state and community partners for the first Youth Emerging Stronger (YES!) Summit. The YES! Summit, held at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Noblesville Conference Center, provided a framework for expanding evidence-based prevention and mental health support within K-12 schools.

HFL launched the three-year grant initiative Partners in Prevention (PiP) in 2019 to help La Porte County schools identify, implement, and sustain proven substance use prevention programs. Through the three years, Partners in Prevention served 13,000+ students across 11 school systems, within 38 individual school buildings, with evidence-based programs to equip students with skills that prevent substance use and help improve their social and emotional well-being. PiP implementers and school leaders from seven school corporations attended the YES! Summit to network, collaborate, and learn from other similar programs. The La Porte County school systems represented were La Porte Community School Corporation; Michigan City Area Schools; New Prairie United School Corporation; Queen of All Saints School; St. John’s Lutheran School; South Central Community School Corporation; and Tri-Township Consolidated School Corporation.

The YES! Summit was made possible by a group of committed funders who know the power evidence-based prevention programming and mental health supports hold for students. Maria Fruth, HFL President and CEO, and Mary Wellnitz, HFL Special Projects Manager, joined colleagues from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, along with others from the Indiana Department of Education, Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction, and North Central Health Services, Inc., to hold the inaugural YES! Summit.

Dr. Katie Jenner, Secretary of Education for the State of Indiana, kicked off the summit with opening remarks. During the summit, Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins, superintendent of Michigan City Area Schools (MCAS), spoke as part of the Strengthening Student Wellness Initiatives: Maintaining Stakeholder Engagement and Continuous Program Improvement panel. Dr. Eason-Watkins discussed how MCAS is collecting and using data for continuous improvement of their school-based prevention and mental health initiatives and programs, as well as demonstrating student impact to maintain stakeholder buy-in.

According to data from the Indiana Youth Survey, Y2022, almost 40% of Hoosier middle and high school students report feeling sad or hopeless almost daily for two weeks or longer. Many of those students say those feelings have prevented them from taking part in some or all their daily activities or have led them to drink alcohol or use drugs. Growing mental health challenges can also have a direct impact on educational outcomes—with a direct link between a student’s wellbeing and their academic success.

While schools are part of the solution, this work requires parents, families, educators, healthcare professionals, philanthropic and community partners, state leaders, and more, working together to ensure every student with the tools needed to learn, grow, and succeed.

For more information about the inaugural YES! Summit, visit

To learn more about Healthcare Foundation of La Porte, visit

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