To the Editor:

My name is Shawn Holt, president and chief executive officer of Maryhaven Inc. Maryhaven is central Ohio’s oldest and most comprehensive behavioral-health provider specializing in treatment for people with addictive illness. In 2016, we provided services for more than 11,000 patients.

On Feb. 1, I had the pleasure to participate in the Jefferson Series panel discussion that highlighted Patrick Kennedy at the Philip Heit Center for Healthy New Albany. One could only imagine the excitement of getting to meet and sit next to Kennedy, whose life story is both captivating and sad. It provides an important reminder that no matter how cruel life can be at times, with the right support system and community, we all have the ability to rebound from personal mistakes.

As the panel discussion ended and the attendees scrambled to get their picture taken with Kennedy, I had the opportunity to reflect on how incredibly lucky I was to have participated in this once-in-a-lifetime event.

But even though sitting next to a Kennedy was awesome, being a resident of New Albany was even better. We are so fortunate that we have a school system that works with the New Albany Community Foundation to lead conversations around mental health and substance abuse.

There is still an incredible amount of stigma that comes with the topic of mental illness and substance abuse. The New Albany Community Foundation took an important step toward breaking down that stigma with this very important discussion.

Shawn Holt

New Albany