BATAVIA, OH (Oct. 14, 2019) — Clermont County residents are invited to dispose of any unwanted, unused or expired prescription medications during the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) National Takeback, 10 a.m-2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 26.
Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board and Opiate Task Force of Clermont County encourage people to use the permanent drug drop boxes at several areas in the county.
“Too often, unused prescription drugs find their way into the wrong hands. That’s dangerous and often tragic,” said Dr. Lee Ann Watson, associate director, Clermont County Mental Health & Recovery Board. “This is a reminder to clean out your medicine cabinets and turn in prescription drugs, safely and anonymously.”
Dispose of unused medications in permanent drop boxes at:
• Amelia Police Department
• Bethel Police Department
• Clermont County Sheriff’s Office
• Goshen Township Police Department
• Loveland Police Department
• Meijer Stores-Eastgate & Miami Township
• Mercy Health-Anderson Hospital
• Mercy Health-Clermont Hospital
• Miami Township Police Department
• Milford Police Department
• Pierce Township Police Department
For more information, see: DEATakeBack.com
BATAVIA, OH (Oct. 4, 2019) — Rhonda Birkhimer, 41, calls herself a “hope dealer.”
Officially, Birkhimer works as a “certified peer recovery support specialist” for the Hope Community Center for Mental Wellness in Amelia.
“I like hope dealer, or recovery coach, better,” Birkhimer said. “That connects with people who are struggling.”
Birkhimer joins a handful of other peer recovery support specialists in Clermont County, dealing hope to people struggling with addiction, mental health issues, trauma, codependency and the like. The Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board was one of the first in the state to recognize the importance of recovery coaches, using them in treatment and as a voice in the community. In 2014, Birkhimer and best friend Kristy Mudd were the first two certified recovery coaches in Clermont County.
“I’m in the field the majority of the time, at agencies, the courts, doing home visits,” Birkhimer said. She’s assigned to Judge James Shriver’s Family Recovery Court and Clermont County Municipal Court’s Intensive Supervision Probation. She works indirectly with the Clermont Recovery Center, Quick Response Teams, recovery houses and Mercy Health – Clermont Hospital.
Birkhimer and Mudd earned certification through the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. In Ohio, peer recovery supporters become certified by taking in-person training or by having three years of work or volunteer experience as a peer navigator, peer specialist, peer supporter, or peer recovery coach. Regardless of the pathway to certification, individuals must also complete 16 hours of online E-Based Academy courses, which include topics such as ethics, human trafficking and trauma-informed care, pass the OhioMHAS Peer Recovery Services exam, sign and agree to the OhioMHAS Peer Recovery Services Code of Ethics and pass a Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI) background check.
Peer recovery supporters provide community-based services for people with a mental illness or substance use disorder. They promote recovery, self-determination, self-advocacy, well-being and independence.
“Peer support holds the hope for people that they can find recovery, especially when people don’t hold the hope themselves,” Hope Center Executive Director Amy Foley said. “Individual successes happen all of the time. We help them see a future they could not have imagined, even six months earlier.”
Birkhimer and Mudd started their journeys as volunteers. Both participated in SOLACE, a support group for individuals and families affected by addiction. Birkhimer has been in recovery from opiate addiction since going through Hamilton County Drug Court on a heroin charge in 2009.
“Rhonda and Kristy came to me and said that things are not working in our community,” Foley said. “Their experience has earned them respect. They’re a powerful voice for what’s working and what’s not working, and how we can change what’s not working.”
Birkhimer added: “Amy heard about the holes in the system and connected the dots. We wanted to help people when they reached out for help.”
Foley, Birkhimer and Mudd embarked on a year-long journey evaluating access to good resources ranging from treatment centers, to food pantries to housing to sober support to Medicaid.
“We learned that the recovery and mental health system is overwhelmed and you can’t get treatment on demand unless you’re super rich,” Foley said. “People expect an immediate response when they decide to get clean, but resources are finite.”
Birkhimer said people would detox in jail, only to use again, OD and even die.
“They get out of jail and don’t know what to do,” she said. “They didn’t realize they could get Medicaid and treatment.”
Foley added: “They need a safe plan. They need to be deliberate.”
Now, while still incarcerated, inmates sign up for Medicaid and undergo assessment for treatment. They make the connections with people and resources who will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle for years to come, one day at a time.
Birkhimer takes people to 12-step meetings and other support groups and gets them started building a sober support network. She helps them tap into family resources and other supports.
“Recovery coaches meet people wherever they are – in jail, in the court room, even in tents in the woods,” Birkhimer said. “We go to the client and we get connected. At jail, we find out if they want to stay sober and we find support for them.”
Birkhimer appreciates the continuing education gained at conferences and seminars on topics such as trauma resiliency. She found the two-day annual Ohio Opiate and Other Drug Conference particularly helpful.
“We’re building up resources so we can do a lot to help people,” Birkhimer said. “Things are always changing. The first year, they didn’t talk about meth at all. Last year, they talked about it a lot.”
Birkhimer says she gets a high from helping others recover.
“The feeling is amazing,” she said. “It has fueled us. This is exceptional for my recovery, and they pay me for it. It makes me humble and grateful every day. It keeps me remembering how easily I could go back to it.”
Birkhimer, herself, has come a long way. When she moved back to Clermont County in 2014 she was on disability with no kids. She had suffered severe strokes back in 2002 due to her unhealthy lifestyle.
Now, she’s got a career, is raising her sister’s two teenagers, and is energized by the difference she gets to make in the lives of others.
“If you just keep doing the next right thing, good things happen,” she said.
BATAVIA, OH (Sept. 11, 2019) – All are welcome to celebrate the First Annual National Recovery Month Family Night Out Celebration 6-8 p.m., Sept. 24, at Veterans Memorial Park, 906 Clough Pike, Cincinnati OH 45245.
The celebration, sponsored by the Opiate Task Force of Clermont County and Clermont Recovery Center, will feature food, family fun games and information about recovery.
National Recovery Month is celebrated every September to increase awareness and understanding of mental health and substance use disorders – and to celebrate the people who recover.
BATAVIA, OH (Sept. 3, 2019) — As Clermont County prepares for its annual Suicide Awareness Day Candlelight Vigil on Sept. 10 and Stand Up to Suicide training (details on both below), we face some stark — and perhaps startling — realities:
“The data also revealed a troubling reality unfolding across Appalachian Ohio, which is home to nine of Ohio’s 10 counties with the highest suicide rates per 100,000 population over the past 10 years,” states the Ohio University College of Health Sciences and Professions. “…White individuals who reside in economically distressed Appalachian communities continue to exhibit the highest suicide rate in Ohio.”
Recent top-selling books such as Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance and Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones detail social trends leading to increasing suicide and addiction rates in the region. White males without a college degree may see themselves as having a less promising future than previous generations. They find low prospects for a good job, one with a ladder up.
Dr. Lee Ann Watson, Associate Director of the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board, noted that there were 31 suicides in Clermont County in 2018, with 42 percent of those deaths occurring in those ages 50-59. She cites untreated mental health concerns, substance misuse, isolation and financial and relationship problems as leading factors.
“Lack of hope and social isolation is a breeding ground for this tragedy,” Watson said. “We’re just beginning to address the aftermath of the opioid crisis in our county. There’s a very high correlation between substance misuse and suicide.”
Watson added that an increase in suicides among middle aged men in Clermont County reflects a national trend. Males are less likely to seek professional help for mental health concerns. They also use firearms more frequently in suicide attempts than women, who more often try less-effective poisoning in attempts to take their lives.
Watson urges people to call Clermont County’s around-the-clock crisis hotline at 528-SAVE if they feel suicidal. Help is a phone call away.
“Seeking help is a sign of strength,” she said. “If you are alarmed, go with your instincts and seek professional help. Reaching out to a friend you are troubled about is also a sign of strength.”
Be aware of these warning signs from the National Institute of Mental Health:
18th annual Candlelight Vigil, Sept. 10
The Clermont County Suicide Prevention Coalition will join with the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention this year for the 18th annual Candlelight Vigil honoring loved ones lost to suicides. The vigil will be held on Sept. 10, 2019, National Suicide Awareness Day, at 7 p.m. at Riverside Park, 425 Victor Stier Drive, Milford. For more information, please contact Lee Ann Watson at 732-5400.
Stand Up to Suicide, throughout September
Also, in September, Clermont County will join 14 counties across Ohio to Stand Up to Suicide. Communities are coming together to train the most people possible in the suicide prevention tactics of Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR). In 90 minutes, QPR training will equip you with the skills to recognize and intervene when someone is showing signs of a suicidal crisis.
Anyone wishing to have their group or organization trained can take these simple steps:
-QPR Training Scheduled at Child Focus, Inc. Training Center:
-Saturday, Sept. 28, 10 to 11:30 a.m., Miami Township Civic Center 6101 Meijer Drive, Milford, Oh 45150. 248-3727 to register.
BATAVIA, OH (Aug. 23, 2019) — The Clermont County Suicide Prevention Coalition will join with the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention this year for the 18th annual Candlelight Vigil honoring loved ones lost to suicide. More than 5 million living Americans have lost a close family member or friend to suicide. Anyone whose life has been touched by suicide is welcome to attend and pay tribute to their loved one with a ceremonial lighting of candles. Refreshments will be provided following the vigil.
Time and date: 7 p.m., Sept. 10 (National Suicide Awareness Day)
Location: Riverside Park, 425 Victor Stier Drive, Milford
Contact: Lee Ann Watson at 732-5400
Also, in September, Clermont County will join 14 counties across Ohio to Stand Up to Suicide. Communities are coming together to train the most people possible in the suicide prevention tactics of Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR). In 90 minutes, QPR training will equip you with the skills to recognize and intervene when someone is showing signs of a suicidal crisis. Details will be shared soon.
BATAVIA, OH — The Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board awarded 14 mini-grants to local organizations for the period of July 1, 2019-June 30, 2020. The Mental Health and Recovery Board plans, funds, and monitors mental health and addiction services locally. The grants will fund programs that enhance mental health and/or prevent addiction in Clermont County. The grant applications were initially reviewed by a three-member committee. A total of $40,910 was allocated, with maximum funding per project of $4,000.
The organizations selected for a mini-grant are:
Bethel-Tate Middle School, Calming Room: To give students who are dealing with anxiety and or trauma a calm place to deal with their stressors.
Boys and Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati, Summer Learning Program: To provide students with a continuation of education during the summer months with focus on academic success, healthy living, self-esteem building, drug prevention, social/emotional learning and leadership.
Cathy Barney, Artsy Fartsy Saturdays: To help children tap into their creative spirit, find their voice, be comfortable, and safely explore the world around them – things that they may not otherwise find anywhere else.
Clermont County Public Library, Mental Health First Aid Training: To provide a free, 8-hour training course on suicide prevention that will be available to the general public as well as library staff. Attendees will learn how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and how to offer help and hope.
Clermont Northeastern Middle School, Be the Difference Club: To establish and create an environment that encourages respect and safety between peers, an increased desire to learn and community pride. The club originally started with six members and has since grown to 81 active participants.
Clermont Northeastern Schools, Rocket Way Opening Week: To provide students with a mental health support program during the first month of school that will focus on topics such as bullying, diversity, adversity, mental health wellness, trust, suicide prevention, identity, school pride and positive communication.
Connection Point Church, Celebrate Recovery: To provide a free of charge 12-step, 8-principle faith-based recovery program to community members in need. Celebrate Recovery has no salaried employees and relies solely on volunteers for the closed group meetings.
Goshen Marr-Cook Elementary, Zones of Regulation: To create individual “tool boxes” for students experiencing trauma. The tool boxes are designed to help the students better manage emotions and improve appropriate responses.
Goshen Middle School, ReDo Day: A program designed to help all members of a school community recognize that respect is an action. By focusing on what they have in common rather than the differences that divide them and by understanding each other’s personal stories, they can build empathy and compassion for one another.
Milford Meadowview Elementary, Meadowview MonSTARs: A Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support (PBIS) program that guides implementation of evidence-based practices to improve student behavior and outcomes. PBIS improves student outcomes by improving the school environment, decreasing school discipline issues, and preventing social, emotional, and behavioral issues.
Milford Mulberry Elementary, Sensory Support Materials: To expand upon a path laid out in a designated spot in the school where students can participate in activities to regulate emotions when feeling elevated and to update sensory boxes in individual classrooms. The intent for these materials is to promote and teach positive behavior and skills to prevent long-term behavioral difficulties and mental health problems.
Safe Harbor of Hope, Tuition Program: To cover tuition costs for a residential sober living program for women seeking a way out of unhealthy lifestyles. Safe Harbor of Hope has no salaried employees and relies on small grants, private donors, churches in the community and fundraisers to provide its services.
Surviving Our Loss and Continuing Every Day (SOLACE), SOLACE Scholarship Program: To sponsor and assist individuals seeking to move into recovery housing and to provide a support hotline for individuals and families affected by substance use disorders.
YWCA of Greater Cincinnati-Eastern Area, House of Peace: To provide therapeutic support groups to the residents at the House of Peace with a focus on post-traumatic stress disorder, exposure to trauma, safety and recovery.
Additional information on the mini-grant awards, the programs, and about mental health or addiction prevention can be obtained by contacting the Mental Health & Recovery Board at 513-732-5400 or visiting their website at www.ccmhrb.org.
BATAVIA, Ohio (July 31, 2019) — Mary Makley Wolff shakes her head in disbelief at the notion: Parents discounting their teens’ use of alcohol or marijuana.
“There are still more people dying from alcohol than any other drug,” says Wolff, director of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Clermont County. She adds that recent research shows that alcohol and marijuana abuse can adversely affect brain development, which continues until age 25.
Community leaders formed the coalition in 1995 with the mission of providing education about the dangers of drugs and alcohol to those 18 and younger. The coalition focuses on alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and prescription drugs.
Its large and active Opiate Task Force, created in 2013, concentrates on prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery. The Task Force developed a quick response team of addicts in long-term recovery, law enforcement and EMS who follow up with overdose victims.
Wolff points out that the Coalition for a Drug-Free Clermont County mainly works on Primary Prevention and environmental strategies “way upstream to change the environment,” hopefully preventing the nightmare of addiction later in life. Research shows that the earlier the use of any substance in developing brains, the higher the chance of addiction.
Coalition members devote their prevention energies to youth 18 and under. They track data regarding non-use in the past 30 days, perception of parental disapproval, perception of peer disapproval and perception of risk. These core measures are tracked in the Student Drug Use Survey of which all Clermont County school districts seventh to 12th graders participate in every two years. They also focus on ways the greater community can support young people with building protective factors and having mentors who provide that “one caring adult” that often is essential to resiliency and overcoming childhood trauma.
“The data allows us to see where we’re making headway and how we stack up nationally,” Wolff says.
While grateful that attention to the opiate crisis has helped reduce overdoses the past three years, Wolff expresses alarm about “drugs of initiation” – alcohol, marijuana and liquid nicotine (e-cigarettes). The percentage of both middle and high school students reporting a perception of parental disapproval of these substances has decreased. So has the percentage of middle and high school youth reporting a perceived risk of using these drugs.
Attention to the opiate crisis and the legalization of marijuana in some states has helped shape perceptions, Wolff says.
Wolff notes that, on average, children in Clermont County first use alcohol, marijuana or nicotine at age 13. However local data shows that despite the perception that everyone uses alcohol and drugs, the majority of Clermont County youth do NOT use these substances.
“Alcohol and marijuana can be a pathway to addiction in some vulnerable people,” she says, noting that ongoing studies seek to more clearly define the problem.
The coalition continues to learn and evolve in its never-ending effort to prevent youngsters from going down that path. The organization started in the mid-1990s after a teen in the Goshen area died from huffing. U.S. Senator Rob Portman spearheaded drug-free communities funding. Events such as Red Ribbon Week in October and alternative after-proms consumed much of the coalition’s energy.
In 2011, the coalition received funding to expand its efforts from the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board and Ohio Mental Health and Addiction services and, in 2015, the coalition obtained a federally funded Drug Free Communities Grant (DFC). This allows the coalition members to work with 12 sectors such as youth, parents, businesses, schools, law enforcement, government and civic organizations. The focus is on local conditions in the local community with local solutions as the most effective way to provide prevention of substance use among youth in Clermont County.
Among current activities:
For more information, please see: https://drugfreeclermont.org/ or call Mary Wolff at 513-735-8143
BATAVIA — In a continuing effort to foster activities that promote positive mental health and prevent addiction, the Clermont County Mental Health & Recovery Board is pleased to announce that mini-grants will again be available for the upcoming year.
The board is looking for innovative projects that will positively affect mental health and/or prevent addiction for any age group. A total up to $40,000, from the board’s levy funds, is available for programs serving Clermont County residents. The maximum funding per project is $4,000. The grant period is July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020. Any organized group in Clermont County – with the exception of the contract agencies of the Mental Health & Recovery Board – can apply for funding.
Previously funded applicants are eligible to reapply. Applicants must have a financial structure in place to account for the awarded funds. Funds may not be used to cover ongoing operating expenses.
To apply for a mini-grant, please submit a brief proposal that includes the name, address, email address and phone number of the contact person, a description of the activity/purpose for which the grant will be used, an explanation of how the activity will promote positive mental health and/or prevent addiction, a description of what part of the activity the mini-grant will fund if used with other monies, the date(s) of activity, and the amount of the funding request. Mini-grant funds cannot be used to purchase equipment such as iPads, iPods, tablets or other electronic items. The funds can be used for materials, supplies, and/or food for activities planned.
Proposals must be submitted no later than Wednesday, May 1, to: Mini-Grant Project, c/o Cindy Knoblauch, Clermont County Mental Health & Recovery Board, 2337 Clermont Center Drive, Batavia, OH 45103.
Last year, the Mental Health & Recovery Board funded a total of 17 mini-grants to 13 separate organizations. Nine schools in Clermont County received grants that assisted in initiating activities that helped children stay drug-free, established mentoring programs, or promoted mental health well-being. In addition, grants were awarded to other agencies providing services directed to community members, such as Safe Harbor of Hope and the YWCA.
Any group receiving funding is required to submit a report to the Mental Health & Recovery Board on its efforts and resulting outcomes following completion of the activity. A final accounting of funds must be submitted within 60 days of the end of the activity. All unused funds must be returned to the board.
It is possible that mini-grants may not be available in the future or that a project funded once may not receive funds a second time, so mini-grants should be viewed as one-time only funds.
If you have any questions about applying for these grants, call the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board at 513.732.5400.
BATAVIA, Ohio – The Clermont County Opiate Task Force voted to oppose Issue 1 at its meeting on Oct. 11.
The task force is comprised of stakeholders representing county government, agencies and the courts (Commissioners, Clermont County Public Health, Clermont County Mental Health & Recovery Board (MHRB), Municipal Court Probation, Common Pleas Court Probation, Public Defender, Children’s Protective Services, County Sheriff); Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services; Clermont Mercy Hospital; law enforcement and fire/EMS departments; faith-based organizations and private citizens.
The Opiate Task Force’s statement declared: “The Clermont County Opiate Task Force (OTF) firmly believes that individuals with a substance use disorder benefit from treatment, and that recovery is possible. The OTF opposes this constitutional amendment because it does not address the problem as intended. Issue 1 polarizes the relationship between treatment and criminal justice, when in fact criminal justice and treatment work hand in hand to assist individuals with reaching recovery. Issue 1 will hinder the ability of the criminal justice system to work to assure that individuals who need treatment will receive it and maintain it. Along with the Clermont County Commissioners, our criminal justice partners, including the Clermont County Police Chief’s and Sheriff’s Association, and the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities, the OTF implores the Ohio General Assembly to immediately bring together a bipartisan coalition of concerned Ohioans to take action to address the issue of increased treatment services for offenders through a legislative solution, not a constitutional amendment. The OTF strongly encourages all community members to become well informed about Issue 1.”
At the meeting, a panel including Common Pleas Judge Jerry McBride, Assistant Prosecutor Darren Miller, Sheriff Steve Leahy, Commissioners Ed Humphrey and David Painter, and Karen Scherra, Executive Director of MHRB, spoke out against Issue 1 and detailed the impact it would have on the county courts, law enforcement and the County Jail, and taxpayers.
Common Pleas Judge Jerry McBride noted that both Municipal and Common Pleas Court judges work with lesser offenders to get them into treatment instead of jail or prison. “The reality is that less and less F4s and F5s (felony offenders) go to prison every day,” he said. “For years now, the emphasis in drug possession has been on treatment.”
Karen Scherra of the Mental Health & Recovery Board said that although her board is in favor of legislative reforms, it opposes Issue 1. “We do not see treatment increasing under Issue 1,” she said. “It’s often the stick of criminal justice that gets people into treatment.” She noted that her board has worked closely with county partners in criminal justice as well as the Commissioners to come up with initiatives in the battle against the opioid problems in the county. “If this passes we will watch a system that we worked really hard to build up collapse,” she said.
On Oct.3, the Clermont County Commissioners passed a resolution opposing Issue 1.
(This article was revised on Oct. 30, 2018.)
BATAVIA, Ohio (Aug. 28, 2018) – On Thursday, Sept. 13, the Clermont County Suicide Prevention Coalition will host its 17th annual candlelight vigil to remember, honor, and cherish the lives of those individuals lost to suicide in Clermont County over the past year. More than five million living Americans have lost a close family member or friend to suicide. Anyone whose life has been touched by suicide is welcome to attend and pay tribute to their loved one. There will be a ceremonial lighting of candles, balloon release, and performance by West Clermont By-Request Choir. Refreshments will be provided following the vigil.
Date: Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Where: Union Township Veterans Memorial Park, Glen Este-Withamsville Road
Time: 6:30-8 p.m.
Contact: Lee Ann Watson, 513.732.5400
The event is sponsored by the Clermont County Mental Health & Recovery Board.