Mental Health

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…


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…


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…


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 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…


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…


County worried about taxpayer fatigue impact on levy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Concern about taxpayer fatigue has led to a request that the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services Board reconsider its proposed levy. The Wood County Commissioners have asked the board to consider other options for its November ballot issue. “We just want to make sure that what they put on the ballot, people will be in favor of,” Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said on Wednesday. “Our concern is – what if it doesn’t pass?” The ADAMHS board had asked that a 1.3-mill replacement levy be place on the ballot. In order for the issue to appear before the voters, the county commissioners have to certify the need for the levy millage. Last month, Tom Clemons, the executive director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, made his pitch to the county commissioners for the agency’s levy request. At that point, Herringshaw said that the commissioners had to discuss the levy request. “We want to make sure it is the right fit for Wood County and for the ADAMHS board,” Herringshaw said. 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 from Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar to Clemons, the commissioners aren’t rejecting the request for the 1.3-mill levy. However, they would like the ADAMHS Board to consider other options. Those options, according to the letter, plus the original request are: 1.3-mill replacement levy for 10 years, which would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 approximately $45.50 a year. 1-mill replacement levy for 10 years, which would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $35 a year. Replacement levy at an amount between 1 mill and 1.3 mills for 10 years. Two separate levies, with one being a 1-mill replacement levy for 10 years, plus a new levy of 0.3 mills for five years. That lower levy would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $10.50 annually. If the opiate crisis is still creating a big demand for services after five years, the ADAMHS Board can put that small levy back on the ballot, the…


More levy funds sought for opiate, mental health services

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Tom Clemons would love to not have to ask Wood County voters for more money. But then he would also love if the opiate crisis weren’t killing people, and if the state and federal government would not have cut funding. So on Tuesday, Clemons, the executive director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, made his pitch to the county commissioners for the agency’s levy request. The board will be seeking a replacement 1-mill levy plus and an additional 0.3-mill levy. The levies will be on the November ballot. Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said that the commissioners will have to discuss the levy requests before deciding whether or not they will get their blessing as the levies go on the ballot. “We listened to what he had to say,” she said of Clemons’ presentation. “We’re still at the point where we’re absorbing what he had to say. We’ll be discussing it. We want to make sure it is the right fit for Wood County and for the ADAMHS board. The current 1-mill levy generates about $2.9 million. The new levies will bring in an additional $1.3 million. Clemons said the additional funding is needed to keep up with growing needs. “First and foremost, we think the opiate epidemic is costing us a little over $700,000 a year,” Clemons said last week. The costs include inpatient and outpatient detox services, recovery housing, clinical services for the Vivitrol program in jail, services for addicted women who are pregnant, help with the Addiction Response Collaboration, short-term residential treatment, help providing medication like Naloxone, outpatient programs, and school-based prevention programs. “It’s touching everyone,” Julie Launstein, ADAMHS finance director, said of the opiate crisis. But it appears that Wood County’s opiate programs are working according to Chris Streidl, manager of clinical programs with ADAMHS, who explained that this county has a significantly lower death rate than those being seen in Lucas and Hancock counties. “We see the numbers,” Clemons said. “This epidemic is not going to go away any time in the near future.” At the same time as the opiate crisis, the ADAMHS board still needs to deal with other mental health, alcohol and drug addiction…


Very few people suffering from mental illness are violent

From NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR MENTAL HEALTH The mass shootings in recent months and years have brought the subject of mental illness to the forefront. Though a dialogue about mental illness is useful and timely, it is unfortunate that in the wake of school shootings the public tends to associate mental illness with violence.  Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness want to point out that people with mental illness rarely become violent. Mental illness contributes to only 4 percent of all violence, and its role in gun violence is even lower (Swanson et al, “Mental Illness and Reduction of Gun Violence and Suicide: Bringing Epidemiologic Research to Policy,” Annals of Epidemiology 25 (2015) 366-376.) Mental illness is common; according to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five Americans suffers from a mental illness at any given time. But violence by people with mental illness is not. As a 2011 Harvard Mental Health Letter states: “Most individuals with psychiatric disorders are not violent. Although a subset of people with psychiatric disorders commits assault and violent crimes, finding have been inconsistent about how much mental illness contributes to this behavior and how much substance abuse and other factors do.” People living with mental illnesses—depression and anxiety disorders as well as severe and chronic mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder—are our family, friends, and neighbors. With the proper treatment, they can live happy and productive lives and contribute to the community. While mental illnesses are not curable in the sense that contagious diseases can be cured, they can be managed the way diabetes can be. Treatment works, if people can get it. Sadly, shame and fear often keep people from the treatment that can change their lives. The stigma that still haunts mental illness makes affected individuals afraid to ask for help lest they be labeled “crazy.” Associating violence with mental illness only strengthens this stigma. People living with mental illness are far more likely to become victims of crime than to commit crimes. And, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, the most common form of violence associated with mental illness is suicide. The tiny minority of mentally ill people who become violent have often been victims of childhood violence. Some have…