Wood County Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services

Voters pass two countywide levies by wide margins

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The willingness of Wood County voters to help those in need resulted in the easy passage of two countywide levies on Tuesday. The Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ 2.45-mill levy walked away with 72 percent of the vote (34,546 to 13,172), and the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services’ 1-mill levy passed handily with 67 percent of the vote (32,061 to 15,901). Wood Lane Superintendent Brent Baer said voters clearly responded to the need. “We’re so appreciative of the support,” he said Tuesday evening. “We’re looking forward to getting back in the office tomorrow and doing what we love to do.” Baer was pleasantly surprised by the margin of the levy’s victory. The last time the levy was on the ballot in 2013, it passed with 57 percent of the vote. The increased support may be because of a decrease in the millage, and in the spike in demands for Wood Lane services, Baer said. “I do believe people really responded to the information,” that requests for services are at an all-time high, he said. “They agreed the need is there.” Tom Clemons, executive director of Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, spent a great deal of time traveling to communities in the county to educate voters prior to the levy vote. But he found that many county residents were already aware of the services. “I think we have really improved our community education over the past several years,” Clemons said. And the ongoing opiate crisis has helped spread the word. “The opiate epidemic certainly increased awareness,” he said. Clemons said he was worried that people would be so tired of hearing about the opiate crisis, that they might shut out the message about the levy. He is also weary of hearing the horrors, “but closing my eyes to it doesn’t make it go away,” he said. “We’re making a difference. We’re saving people’s lives. But we’ve got a long way to go,” he said. As he promoted the levy, Clemons also talked about the need for more suicide prevention efforts in the county. “The high rate of suicides we’re seeing has really sobered people up,” he said. Voters responded…


ADAMHS levy aims to save lives from drugs, suicide

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As Tom Clemons makes his rounds to public meetings before next week’s election, he talks about the big difference made by a levy that costs voters a small amount. The 1-mill replacement levy for 10 years for Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services will cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $35 a year. That money is spent on dealing with growing drug addiction problems and increasing needs for mental health crisis services. “We save lives,” said Clemons, executive director of Wood County ADAMHS. The levy funding is needed to keep up with growing needs for services, Clemons said. Some of the biggest issues include dealing with the opiate epidemic, providing more mental health housing, and improving crisis intervention services. Wood County is expected to hit 30 deaths this year from opioid overdoses. The number of suicides is also on the rise, with the county trending at about 20 this year, Clemons said. The funding is vital, he said, for programs fighting the opioid crisis, plus an increase in methamphetamine and cocaine abuse. Addiction recovery houses, and the mental health services are all part of the safety net supported by the WCADAMHS levy. 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. In response to the increase in adult suicides, the ADAMHS board recently decided to fund a mobile crisis response that replaced The Link crisis center. The mobile unit responds to crises wherever the person is – at home, work, a store, or a park, Clemons said. It has 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,…


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…


County voters to face two levies on fall ballot

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County voters will have two county-wide issues to decide in the November election. Neither are asking the voters for more millage – which was very important to the county commissioners as they deliberated the tax levy requests earlier this year. 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 duration of that levy is five years. The other is a replacement 1-mill levy for 10 years for Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services. During a presentation by Wood Lane officials earlier this year, 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. The Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services board started out asking for an increase in levy dollars, from the current 1-mill to 1.3 mills. But the Wood County Commissioners – who have to certify the need for levies before they are placed on the ballot – asked the ADAMHS…


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…


Help for those caught up in opiate epidemic: Call 211

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County has all types of services for people dealing with the opiates epidemic – for addicts trying to kick it, for families struggling as they watch, for schools trying to prevent opiate use before it begins, and for physicians who prescribe opiates. But if people aren’t aware of the services – they may as well not exist. So here is the one number they all need to know – 211. “We’ve done a lot to try to reduce the barriers,” said Tom Clemons, executive director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board. “In a nutshell, 211. Call 211.” Clemons said it became glaringly obvious to him over the last month or two, when a number of local agencies were not aware of the resources open to Wood County residents facing the opiate epidemic. So last week, Clemons and some members of his agency and board met with the county commissioners about helping them reach people in need. “We’re trying to get the word out,” he said. “Help is here.” As an example, Clemons said that Wood County’s recovery housing program for male opiate addicts often has open slots. “A lot of times people are in need, but they aren’t aware of services,” he said. Clemons asked if small brochures, stressing the need to dial 211, could be placed at every desk of county employees who take calls from the public. The brochures are already being carried by law enforcement throughout the county, he said. During the Wood County Fair, information was handed out at several booths. “We also realize we have to go old-school as well,” Clemons said. Three town hall meetings about opiates have been held – in Bowling Green, Perrysburg and North Baltimore. Clemons listed several different approaches in place to attack the opiate issue. “Treatment by itself is inadequate,” he said. Prevention education is offered, including training for teachers. “That’s always the best bang for your buck.” The ADAMHS Board also offers a drug-free workplace program, coordinated by Lorrie Lewandowski, associate director of ADAMHS. Vivitrol programs are offered for opiate addicted inmates who are being released from the Wood County jail and the Northwest Community Corrections Center. The…