suicide prevention

Clemons has been the voice for those living with mental health, addiction issues

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Tom Clemons can talk … and talk … and talk. Most of what he talks about is pushing for mental health services for Wood County residents – and making fun of himself for talking so much. Clemons, whose propensity for talking is well known, is retiring from his position as director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board next March. “This interview could last several days,” he said with a big grin. “I go off on tangents.” And that is an understatement. Clemons is aware that his gift of gab is nearly legendary – so he is frequently apologizing for rambling. “Oh my God, Tom’s at it again,” he says in his customary self-deprecating manner. But this fall, as Clemons fine tuned his WCADAMHS levy pitch, he was able to rein it in. “It took everything I had,” he whispered. “I can be succinct. I just don’t like being succinct.” Behind him in the WCADAMHS conference room as he was interviewed was a white board with almost unintelligible pen scratchings. It was a visible manifestation of how Clemons’ brain works. Far from neat and tidy, it’s how Clemons thinks. And it’s benefitted Wood County for more than 20 years. Clemons came to the board first as associate director in 1997, then became director in 2012. Prior to that, he worked as a therapist in private practice in the Defiance area. He changed jobs to be closer to home while his and wife Karen’s children were teenagers. “For a few years I really missed being a therapist,” he said. “But I realized I could really affect more people and systems of care,” in his administrative position. Clemons was drawn to psychology early in life. “I had friends in high school who I saw become addicted to drugs and alcohol.” And he had two friends who took their lives. His parents were a huge influence on his career path, with his father being a minister and his mother having a divinity degree and working with senior adults. “I was raised…