YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The City Club of the Mahoning Valley hosted a panel discussion on economic development and the state of the Valley at Stambaugh Auditorium Monday evening.
Mahoning County Health Commissioner Pat Sweeney told the 175 attendees at the forum about her primary concern with economic development.
“Thirty-four percent stated that within the past year, they were unable to care for themselves, or go to work because of a mental health concern,” Sweeney said.
She said if someone suffers from depression or anxiety to the extent that they cannot work, there is an issue regardless of what jobs are available.
“But if this is a priority, then the community needs to come together and tell us how we can address that as an issue.”
Traci Hostetler of the Mahoning County Educational Service Center said there is $5 million in a state education bill enacted for mental illness services in Mahoning County. She is working with school systems on how to spend it.
“In trying to figure out what the kids need so that we can properly serve them next year,” said Hostetler said.
Sarah Boyarko of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber referred to the now closed GM Lordstown, saying that over 100 employment opportunities were available to GM employees wanting to stay. She also said other companies were better prepared.
“So many of the companies that maybe would have closed because of the General Motors situation have not because they worked very hard to diversify over the years,” Boyarko said.
The arts were also discussed, and Karen Shubert of Lit Youngstown said the Mahoning Valley is strong on this issue.
“I think the arts and culture sector, with all of the festivals, is really one of the strengths of life here,” she said.
There were also two other notable facts that came out of the forum.
Sweeney said 58% of Mahoning County’s African Americans have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Boyarko said the number one priority of companies is workforce availability, specifically warehouse logistics.
The panel discussion began at 6:30 p.m. and included a meal for guests.