Mental Health

Empty Clouds Zen fills a need for Buddhist space in BG

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Local Buddhist practitioners have moved to higher ground. The loose group, Empty Clouds Zen, had been based out of the Common Good, near campus, for the past couple years, but when that went into hiatus this summer, they were cast adrift.  Simon Morgan-Russell, one of the practitioners, said that posed a dilemma. The practitioners associated with the group — Phil Dickinson, Caroline Dawson Dickinson, and Pete DeWood — at first started inquiring at Bowling Green churches about finding space for 90 minutes a week. And they did find a church that would provide them room, said Morgan-Russell. But as they considered it, he said, they realized “this is a good opportunity to push the boat out because if we were limited to an hour and a half, it wouldn’t allow us each to do our own thing. So we bit the bullet and found this place.” Each leads a different session during the week. This leap of faith has paid off.  Empty Clouds Zen now has its own space, suite 218 on the second floor of the old Huntington Bank Building, above the Four Corner Center, 130 S. Main St. Though on the second floor, it’s actually several flights of stairs up. Each landing has a sign to continue to go further up. Morgan-Russell quipped that from the outside it seems a more fitting location for a detective’s office, inside it looks like anything but. Homey, welcoming with a space for cushions and a small shrine for Buddha. Their neighbors include a massage studio and other with holistic treatment practices. “Having this space gives us more opportunity,” Morgan-Russell said. On a recent Sunday morning the four founders gathered to talk about Empty Clouds Zen after a service of chanting, recitation, and a half-hour of meditation. “A lot of currents led to this moment,” Dickinson said. “Different streams have coalesced into this place. The fact that there are lots of different communities of people who respond to the opportunities we offer shows there’s a need in a Bowling Green for a space like this.” Each of them uses the space. Through those various sessions offered, they attract a variety of people. Some people attend just one session, while others crossover to others. Each of the four has their own meandering path to this place. Dickinson, Morgan-Russell and DeWood practice in the Soto tradition. Dawson Dickinson, who served as the financial developer of Common Good, bases her practice in the   Yogic and Vipassana traditions. Hers is perhaps the most direct. Her mother practiced yoga, so she was introduced to it as a child. She fell away during her teen years only to return when she was in her 20s. She worked in business, but traveling to and living in India made her realize that spirituality would be central to her…

Read More

Connection Center offers hope to those facing mental illness

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For almost two decades, the Connection Center in Bowling Green had provided a safe and welcoming place for people struggling with mental health issues. The only problem was that the space at 194 S. Main St. did not keep up with the growing needs. “We’ve needed this space for a long time,” said Tom Clemons, executive director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board, which is the primary source of funding for the center. “I know the Connection Center has been very important in helping people recover,” Clemons said. “This is phenomenal.” Verna Mullins, the Connection Center manager, said the new expanded location promises many possibilities. “Our new facilities will give us a chance to grow” not only in the number of people served, but also in the programming offered, Mullins said. The primary goal of the center is to help people on their paths to recovery from mental health problems. “We will continue to do what we do best – provide hope,” Mullins said. On Thursday, the official ribbon cutting was held at the new Connection Center location at 309 S. Main St. The new location has almost double the space for adults receiving mental health services in Wood County. There’s room for more educational programs, like those on nutrition, exercise, and tips on how to beat the holiday blues. And there’s room for fun – as evidenced by the center’s schedule posted on a big calendar on the wall. There are plans for musical entertainment and a Halloween party. The center has a craft area, big TV, and plenty of comfortable seating. There are field trips planned to a pumpkin patch, alpaca farm, bowling, a cookout, the movie theater, a corn maze, apple orchard, and neighborhood strolls. “Whenever there was a holiday party, you couldn’t move,” John Fortner, director of Harbor mental health services in Wood County, said of the old space. The doubled space is expected to make a big difference for a lot of people. “It was really, really cramped in the other building,” said Julie Kershaw, psychosocial rehabilitation specialist at the center. “I think a lot more people will start coming.” Mary Hinkelman, new executive director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, said she was pleased to see the expansion – still in the downtown area. “This was a really big move for them,” she said. “We’re very excited for you.” Mayor Dick Edwards praised the renovation of the new space, which is located in front of Everyday People Cafe. “What an amazing transformation here,” he said. “I understand what you are trying to do – to make this more accessible to more people.” State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, also praised the new site and the programs offered there. “What a tremendous facility connecting people…


Addiction and mental health safety nets depend on levy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After Carol Beckley’s life turned dark, she tried to end her life five or six times. After Kyle Snyder started stealing from his dad’s medicine cabinet, he ended up overdosing on opiates multiple times. Their lives have few similarities – except Beckley and Snyder were both saved by the safety net stretched out by the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board. So on Monday, the two told their stories at the kickoff for the WCADAMHS levy which will appear on the November ballot. “Nothing speaks as clearly as to hear somebody’s personal story of their recovery,” said Tom Clemons, executive director of WCADAMHS. Beckley, who grew up in Wood County, started having problems 26 years ago. “My life as I knew it fell apart,” she said. She grew detached from things that were important to her, and started cutting herself. Beckley said she attempted suicide five or six times. Over the next five years, she was hospitalized about 20 times. “It was a revolving door for me,” she said. At that point, Beckley moved back to Wood County, where she found the safety net of services for people with mental health and addiction problems. Through Behavioral Connections, she was assigned a psychiatrist, therapist and case manager. She started hanging out at the Connections Center, where people cared how she was doing. “It was a place I could go on a daily basis,” Beckley said. “It got me out of my house. I started to crawl back to some sense of normalcy.” Without the levy funding for local mental health services, Beckley would not have been standing at a podium Monday telling her story. “Without the funding, without the help, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said. “Life as I know it is not the life I planned – but it is very rich.” Snyder was helped by a different safety net – one for addicts. As a child, Snyder watched as his father struggled as he waited for a kidney transplant. He remembered the burden and pain he felt as a child. “I remember at 10 years old I didn’t want to be alive,” he said. As a teenager, Snyder searched for ways to escape his world. “Anything to alter my reality,” he said. When alcohol was no longer enough, Snyder began taking his dad’s prescribed morphine from the medicine cabinet. When he was 27, his dad died. Soon after, Snyder had his first overdose. His family was warned that he might not survive. But he lived – only to repeat the process again. “I got high about a week later,” he said. Snyder remembers not really wanting to continue taking drugs. “But I couldn’t see a better alternative.” Snyder lost everything important to him, and went to rehab. He took the right…


Weighty issues – county citizens getting fatter & sadder

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County residents have gotten fatter and sadder in the last three years. The latest Community Health Assessment results for Wood County adults show growing numbers of people carrying around extra weight physically and mentally. Nearly 40 percent of local adults classify themselves as obese, while another 33 percent say they are overweight. A total of 14 percent of adults reported feeling sad or hopeless for two or more consecutive weeks. The surveys are conducted every three years by the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio. “We can be confident that this is pretty accurate,” Wood County Health Commissioner Ben Batey said earlier this week. A total of 1,200 adult surveys were mailed out to randomly selected residences. In order to be statistically accurate, 383 responses were needed. A total of 431 adults responded. The youth surveys fared even better, since they were conducted at schools. The health survey process began in 2008 – which allows the health department make comparisons to past health data. “How are we trending? Are we getting better in this trending?” Batey asked. The answer is yes and no. Overall, the youth data is positive. “I was very happy to see the trends with our youth,” Batey said. “We’re either holding the line or improving.” Obesity and overweight numbers among youth are gradually improving. Physical activity among youth is increasing. “Those are good things to see,” he said. Cigarette smoking among youth is at a record low. Overall substance abuse is down in kids. The numbers of youth trying alcohol and engaging in binge drinking are also down. Adolescent sexual activity is down. And bullying has dropped a bit. The one area seeing a troubling increase is in mental health. More youth responded that they have considered suicide, and experience regular sadness or hopelessness. “Mental health still seems to be declining,” Batey said. “It’s a trend that’s going in the wrong direction.” In the survey responses of parents with children ages birth to 5, a positive trend was seen in a majority of families reading to children every day in the past week. The biggest negative was a drop in mothers attempting breastfeeding. “That jumped off the page for me,” Batey said. “I think that’s huge.” But overall, Batey was happy about changes seen in younger respondents. “I’m very optimistic about the trends we’re seeing in our children and youth,” he said. Adults, on the other hand, slipped in some key areas especially weight and mental health. A total of 39 percent of adults ranked themselves as obese, compared to 22 percent three years ago. That compares to 32 percent of Ohioans and 30 percent overall in the U.S. that consider themselves as obese. Combined, 72 percent of local adults described themselves as either overweight or obese. “That’s a pretty big swing for…


Voters to decide 2 county levies in fall – though 1 is still in limbo

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County voters will decide the fate of two county-wide levies this fall. The county commissioners heard from both groups last week. One levy is a reduced renewal levy – dropped from the current 2.95-mills to 2.45 mills for Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The other is still a mystery. A request had been made for an increase from a 1-mill to a 1.3-mill levy for Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services. The commissioners seem to be on board with the Wood Lane request. But they have expressed reservations about the increased levy request from ADAMHS. During the presentation by Wood Lane officials, Superintendent Brent Baer talked about the “dynamic growth in services” that the board is seeing. And Martha Woelke, of the board, said great deliberation went into the levy request. “We did everything we can to maximize state and federal money,” she told the commissioners. The board has been able to reduce its levy collections some years, but feels that 2.45 mills is the lowest it can go for the renewal. When people with developmental disabilities waive their right to institutional care, they are picked up by community based services – like Wood Lane. That agency then identifies their needs and develops plans to meet them, Baer said. The waivers allow for federal funding, but the community agency must still pick up 40 percent of the costs, said finance officer Steve Foster. “Our commitments are for the life of an individual,” Baer said. Demands are growing as the population here is increasing. “Wood County is one of the few counties in Ohio that’s growing,” Baer said. About five years ago, there were 226 consumers on waivers. Now there are 425. Baer expects that number to double again in the next five years. The board may need to be back in five years, asking for a greater levy, but this should do for now, Baer said. It’s not often that a county board approaches the county commissioners about lowering a levy request. “I’ve never had to do one with a reduction,” said Sandy Long, the clerk of the board of commissioners. The commissioners like the idea of asking taxpayers for less for Wood Lane. But they aren’t completely sold on asking taxpayers for more for the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services Board. The Wood County Commissioners – who have to certify the need for levies before they are placed on the ballot – have asked the ADAMHS board to consider other options for the November ballot issue. The current 1-mill levy generates about $2.9 million. The levy replacement plus addition of 0.3 mills would bring in an additional $1.3 million. According to a letter last month from Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar to ADAMHS Executive Director Tom Clemons,…


Wood County sees spike in ‘silent epidemic’ of suicide

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s “silent epidemic” is no longer so hushed. The suicide deaths of celebrities Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have cast some light on the incidences of people taking their own lives, said Tom Clemons, executive director of Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services. Suicides are responsible for more deaths each year in Wood County than opiate overdoses. “We’ve had quite a few of them in the county,” Clemons said Tuesday during a meeting with the Wood County Commissioners. The county used to average six to seven suicide deaths a year. “That’s too many,” Clemons said. And then they spiked. In 2015 there were 17; in 2016 there were 20; in 2017 there was a drop to 11; and this year the county is on pace to hit 25. “It’s a very disturbing trend,” he said. And the numbers could actually be higher, since suicide by overdose is sometimes recorded as accidental. Wood County has a high rate of suicide among first responders, and a higher than average rate for adult males between 35 and 55 – which accounts for 77 percent of the cases in the county. The rate of suicide among local youth is low, Clemons said. “We believe that’s due to a whole number of factors,” he said. After a spike in teen suicides about a decade ago, several programs were implemented to change that trend. Prevention programs include the Signs of Suicide (SOS) program and bullying initiatives. “They build resiliency in kids,” Clemons said. “These things have been shown to be very effective.” In response to the increase in adult suicides, the ADAMHS board recently decided to fund a mobile crisis response that will take the place of The Link crisis center. The new unit is expected to be in operation by July 1. The mobile unit will respond to crises wherever the person is – at home, work, a store, or a park, Clemons said. It will have unlimited capacity for calls, so no one calling in for help will be put on hold, he added. “Everybody who answers the phone is thoroughly trained in crisis response,” he said of the new hotline. The ADAMHS board also funded training in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, designed for people who are suicidal, self-harming or aggressive to others. The therapy has been proven very successful, Clemons said, and focuses on self-calming skills, mindfulness and meditation techniques. When the training is complete, Wood County should have 30 to 40 therapists available with expertise in the DBT techniques. For families or friends concerned about how to spot suicidal behavior, the National Alliance on Mental Health in Wood County offers “first aid” training on the warning signs of suicide and suggestions of how to intervene, Clemons said.


Closing The Link may make sense – but it will be missed by those it served

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Link saved Melissa Kaiser’s life. So when she learned the crisis intervention center was being closed, she was furious. Last year, Kaiser was contemplating suicide when she called The Link. She was terrified of being hospitalized, but was convinced to go by the caseworker on the other end of the line. “They got me to a hospital and they saved my life,” Kaiser said. This wasn’t the first time she had turned to The Link for help. As someone dealing with depression, anxiety, bipolar issues – at the same time as juggling work, college and clinical  rotations – Kaiser has sought help there before. “They are able to understand me. They taught me coping mechanisms,” she said. “They talk to me. They calm me down.” The Link has been offering help 24/7 for about 40 years in Bowling Green. It started out as a crisis hotline staffed by volunteers. So when Kaiser heard that the brick and mortar site was being closed and the services were going mobile, she was livid. “I’ve called The Link several times. They’re not just crisis prevention, they are caseworkers. They listen and then they hook you up with services,” she said of the staff who are friendly, familiar faces. “It was really upsetting to me. Those people saved my life.” But those making the decision to switch over to a mobile crisis unit said the reason is for people like Kaiser. Stationary offices are an antiquated and more expensive way to provide crisis response, according to Tom Clemons, director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board, and Chris Streidl, manager of clinical programs and quality improvement for ADAMHS. “That service doesn’t go away,” but it will respond to wherever the caller is – rather than making them come to an office here in Bowling Green, Clemons said. “We’re trying to bring our services to our clients,” Streidl said. The mobile unit is seen as the most effective way to deal with the “silent epidemic in Wood County,” Clemons said. Current suicide rates in the county are higher than the national rate, and are more than the number of people being killed by opiate overdoses. “This is not only a fiscal decision,” Clemons said. “We have to do something differently.” The number of suicides reported in 2015 in the county was 17, followed by 20 in 2016. That number dipped in 2017 to 11, but is on track to hit 24 this year. “These are the known suicides. There are always more,” Clemons said. “It’s a huge issue. I don’t think people realize that,” Streidl said. The mobile unit is believed to be more effective, Clemons said. “Mobile crisis response is the best practice – go where a person is.” Very few people actually walk in…