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Speedway allowing Indy 500 spectators to ride scooters to track

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — It’s cheaper than a helicopter, faster than a traffic jammed car and only legal for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500.

For the first time, Indy 500 spectators can bypass race day traffic on electric scooters, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) officials said Tuesday.

The town of Speedway agreed to lift its scooter ban along 10th Street for race weekend, provided scooters are dropped off in a designated parking area approximately four blocks from the main gate of IMS.

“With all of the scooters that are downtown, we knew that eventually people would start thinking that was going to be a good mode of transportation to the speedway,” IMS president Doug Boles told News 8. “And so one of the things we really wanted to do was make it easy [and] make sure they’re clear on where we want them to be.”

IMS and Indianapolis officials partnered with the town of Speedway to create a “special scooter route,” he explained.

Indy 500 attendees can use 10th Street to ride to the track from downtown Indianapolis. Scooters must be dropped off in a grassy parking zone at 10th Street and Allison Way. Spectators are not permitted to use scooters on IMS grounds.

Boles named Lime as the IMS-preferred provider for race day scooter needs. The company agreed to have employees swap parked scooters with fully charged models during the race so spectators have sufficient battery power to return downtown, he said.

“We’re also working with Bird and we’re hoping that Bird will do the same thing,” Boles added. “But [as of Tuesday], Lime is the only one that’s agreed to do that.”

Despite his efforts to coordinate a low-traffic, scooter-friendly race experience, the IMS president said he had never ridden one of the electric models himself.

“You see most of them downtown,” Boles explained. “And usually when I’m downtown, I’ve gone to a restaurant and I’ve had a beer or two. I don’t know that I want to challenge my balance.”

Operating a scooter in Indiana while intoxicated can result in an OWI or DUI charge. 

Scooter aficionados urged prospective race day riders to “get comfortable” on two wheels before committing to the 10-mile round-trip ride between downtown Indianapolis and the track.

At a constant speed of 15 mph, a scooter can travel from downtown to IMS in approximately 20 minutes.


Hamilton County’s ‘Wellness Unit’ part of nationwide effort to improve mental health among officers

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An initiative to improve employee well-being at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is among a spate of efforts across the nation to address mental health concerns among officers.

Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush announced the department’s new “Wellness Unit”  — devoted to the physical, mental and spiritual health of its deputies, correctional officers and civilian employees — Friday in a Facebook post.

“Our guys really care about the public,” he said Monday in an interview with News 8. “When you see somebody who’s injured or victimized, it really impacts us… We’re only human.”

The Wellness Unit launched in January with funding approved by county council members and commissioners.

Appointments are held off-site at undisclosed locations to protect the privacy of employees. Supervisors are not briefed on which employees seek counseling or what they discuss during sessions.

Information gathered during counseling sessions will not be used to demote or discipline employees, and will only be disclosed if required by law, including when somebody poses an immediate danger to themselves or others.

The department’s entire staff will receive training related to suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, critical incidents, addiction, mindfulness and officer wellness, the sheriff said.

Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); the suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.

Years of daily exposure to stress, trauma and tragedy can have other devastating consequences if appropriate coping skills are not developed, according to Susan Sherer-Vincent, a licensed clinical social worker, certified alcoholism counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist involved in launching the Wellness Unit.

“Think of the hurricanes that come in, in Florida, and think of the palm trees where they bend,” she explained. “But then, what happens afterwards? They go back up. That’s called resilience. We want our officers to bend, not break.”

Until approximately 3 to 5 years ago, officers were often conditioned to “pull [themselves] up by the bootstraps and go to the next call” instead of addressing personal struggles, Sherer-Vincent said.

Cultivating resiliency can be difficult within a law enforcement culture that equates mental health challenges with “weakness,” she said.

“[Officers] are trained to have the warrior mentality,” Sherer-Vincent told News 8. “Truly, they would have been made fun of [in the past for seeking counseling].”

She compared strong, silent officers with underdeveloped coping skills to California’s famed redwood trees.

“They’re pretty sturdy. But what would happen if you took an ax and hit those every single day, day after day, for years? They would eventually fall,” she said.

Quakenbush credits his wife, church and non-law enforcement friends with providing “a really good support system.”

“But sometimes, you need a professional,” he said, urging employees to “talk through” negative emotions instead of turning to alcohol and other substances for temporary relief.

Several internal cases that resulted in disciplinary action during his year-long tenure as sheriff may have been prevented with wellness-focused intervention, Quakenbush said.

He was unable to comment on personnel matters. 

Sources within the department indicated some of the cases involved employees with substance abuse issues that had escalated over time, possibly as a result of work-related stress that had gone unaddressed. 

“I wouldn’t say that [disciplinary action] was happening often,” Quakenbush told News 8. “But seeing it happen and knowing that we probably could have done something about it made it impactful and something that we wanted to make a priority.”

Hamilton County announced its Wellness Unit days after New York City police officials revealed plans to hire a team of psychologists to combat a spike in officer suicides.

On Feb. 13, Indianapolis police officials said they planned to swear in the department’s first full-time therapy dog by the end of March.

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