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 to services,” she said.
The Connection Center is open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with Tuesday having extended hours until 6:30 p.m. On Saturday the center will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.