Crosswinds Conversations | Curtis Smith Interviews Jim Merritt, Former Indiana State Senator

This video segment is from Restoring Hope, a TV series hosted on WHMB40 and serving the Indianapolis area. Crosswinds Counseling offers counseling services throughout Indiana.

Curtis: Tonight we are so excited to have our first guess with us. Jim Meritt has been a powerful voice in Indiana government for more than 3 decades. He served in the state senate for more than 30 years and is a former chair of the Marion County Republican Party. Jim thank you so much for joining us today.

Jim: No. Thank you.

Curtis: 30 years in government. I bet you’ve seen a thing or two.

Jim: Yeah, it was quite a ride. I left about November of 2020. After 30 years I felt like I could do more outside the senate than in.

Curtis: So it’s been about a full year now.

Jim: Yes.

Curtis: Have you found that to be true?

Jim: Yeah. It’s allowed me time to think and concentrate on different issues than I ordinarily [would] be working. Constituent service for a state senator is really the hub of everything that individual does. So without having that as a large component of what I did as a state senator, it’s given me time to think and work on some other issues.

Curtis: Before we talk about that, tell me about those 30 years. What are some of the highlights for you? What are some of the things you think about? You look back and say, ‘Boy I’m really proud of that. I’m really glad we accomplished that.’

Jim: I’m proud of writing the bill that established really the BMVs future of not having to go to the license branch. If you recall, it was hours when you had to wait.

Curtis: [chuckles] I do recall.

Jim: Yes. Of course. The ‘Kids First’ license plate. The safe-haven law, where you could drop your baby off at a police station or a hospital. The lifeline law where we talked to 149 of the legislators and a governor that giving immunity to someone that is over-served, would save lives, and it has. And working on the opioid issue. Bringing 211 to the state of Indiana. I am very very proud of that career, and I’m really ready to do more.

Curtis: You used the phrase ‘saved lives’ and I was thinking as you were describing your career, I can’t imagine how humbling and powerful it would be to look back on a career and say I did things that saved lives. I did things that impacted Hoosiers in an incredible way. What is that like for you?

Jim: Well, it makes you shiver a little bit with for instance with this Save Haven law. We had this birthday party [after] 8 years this law was in place. We had all the babies that were 8 years old come to a birthday party at the statehouse. We saved countless lives [when] someone that is overserved at an event, and we know that actually happened because they did call 911 or they text 911, because kids don’t call. They text.

Curtis: Kids don’t use a phone as a phone.

Jim: Exactly. So it just kind of gives me the shivers that now with the pandemic 211 was the number that you called to get your information, and the state of Indiana is using that now. And I found that in Atlanta, and it was happening in New Hampshire. So it does give me goosebumps to know that I tried to make a change or make a difference.

Curtis: Just wonderful. Jim, you mentioned focusing on other things now that you have moved on from the senate, and I know that one of the things that matter to you is mental health.

Jim: Right.

Curtis: Where are you seeing Hoosiers right now as we hopefully come out of the pandemic. It’s been more than a year and a half now. Where do you think our mental state is and why is mental health so important to you.

Jim: Well, first of all, my friends at the Mental Health Association of indiana, they’re hashtag is #mentalhealthishealth and trying to get it to where if you have a broken arm or you have depression [it] is really the same thing and treated the same way in the way of severity. I really believe. We’re talking about the Crosswinds Counseling. I believe in counseling. We’re on the outskirts of a mental health bubble going on and it just really boggles my mind that we’re not concentrating more on depression, on anxiety, and suicide. When all the facts come out on 2020 and 2021 we are going to see a lot of family estrangements. That’s what’s so great about Crosswinds Counseling is that they go in and talk to people. And corporations should be worried about their employees with all of the stress in their lives and coming back into the office. Having that situation [where] you usually walked your dog at 11 o’clock in the morning because you’re working from home. You can’t do that anymore. Maybe you took a jog at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. You can’t do that anymore. It’s a life change and we need to help people get back into the swing of life in going back to the office, and going to movies, and the gym and Crosswinds Counseling can offer that incredibly for corporate indiana and for the 6.6 million hoosiers that we have in the state right now.

Curtis: One of the big barriers has been the stigma around going to counseling and dealing with mental health. It’s so easy sometimes to hide the problem. It’s not like a broken arm where everybody sees it. Depression can be hidden. Are we dealing with that stigma better? Are we getting better about helping that to go away?

Jim: I had counseling, and the first time I went to counseling, I parked down the street because I had a senate license plate on the back of my car and I didn’t want anybody to know that I was in counseling. And I walked out the door and said, ‘You know what, that was such a great feeling coming out that door.’ The counselor was so good that I parked right at the front door last time because if I’m going to be a leader and I feel good about it, I think counseling [is a thing] that everyone ought to commit to. The question is where do we go from here? You know we have the colts with the Kick The Stigma. It is stigmatized and everyone is supposed to be so perfect. Well, you’re not, and I would encourage everyone out there to seek counsel because we all need somebody to talk to.

Curtis: Yeah. Jim, real quickly tell me, what is it that counseling meant to you personally? What is it done for you in your life?

Jim: Well, it’s allowed me to be fair with myself. It’s allowed me to think in big rooms and help others. I have more of a calmness about my life, and I would encourage anyone to reach out to someone else and talk to them about what’s going on in your life.

Curtis: That’s wonderful. Jim, thank you for being with us tonight and being so candid in this conversation and thank you for your years of service to the Hoosier state. Really appreciate it.

Jim: Of course.


Hoosier Mental Health Resources & Campaigns Mentioned In Interview:

Legislation Mentioned In Interview:

Counseling Services:

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