Youth First Founder Dr. William Wooten was recently awarded one of Indiana’s highest honors. At the Emerald Gala celebrating Youth First’s 20th anniversary on April 21, 2018, Dr. Wooten was designated a Sagamore of the Wabash by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. 

Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch announced the award in a video tribute, and it was then presented by Youth First President & CEO Parri O. Black and Youth First Board Member Carol Lynch. 

“Dr. Wooten has literally saved thousands of lives through the founding of Youth First. It was no easy task in a world searching for quick fixes, but he knew Youth First must be a coordinated, collaborative, comprehensive, regional and sustained effort in order to fight substance abuse and related concerns like suicide, self-harm, child abuse, violence and other traumatic childhood experiences,” said Lynch. 

A former family physician and director of a treatment center, Dr. Wooten founded Youth First in 1998 because he saw a growing number of young people with complex substance use and behavioral health disorders. Feeling there was a gap in prevention services in our area, he rallied community leaders and worked to positively address the problem and help young people succeed. 

Over the last 20 years, Dr. Wooten’s concern for young people and dream of a better approach to prevention has resulted in an organization that has become a trusted partner in Indiana and is now a model for the rest of the state. 

The Sagamore of the Wabash honorary award was created during the term of Governor Ralph F. Gates, who served as Indiana Governor from 1945 to 1949. Conferred upon Indiana citizens who have contributed greatly to Hoosier heritage, the award has been given to astronauts, presidents, ambassadors, musicians, scientists, politicians and others. 

About Youth First, Inc.:
Youth First’s mission is to strengthen youth and families through evidence-based programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors, and maximize student success. Youth First partners with 58 schools across 7 counties to provide 39 Master’s level social workers who assess needs, develop and implement prevention plans, and connect students and their families to community resources. Youth First also offers afterschool programs involving parents and caregivers to strengthen families. For more information about Youth First, please visit www.youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.