April 2, 2020

Tips for managing stress, helping children cope

BATAVIA, OH (April 2, 2020) — During this time when people are checking temperatures, monitoring for coughs and other respiratory symptoms, it is important to also remember to take care of your mental health. Your mental wellness and self-care are vital during this stressful time.

A little anxiety is likely during something as stressful as a pandemic. Here are some ideas to help that anxiety from accelerating into something that impacts your everyday life:

  1. Practice self-care through breathing and relaxation. Take a few minutes every day to take some deep breaths and think positive thoughts.
  2. Stay connected. You can safely connect through social media, texts or phone calls.
  3. Talk about your feelings. Find someone trusted to share feelings of stress and anxiety with, talk about what you’re feeling to really process those thoughts.
  4. Have some fun. Watch a favorite movie, go for a walk, play a game, etc.
  5. Avoid information overload. It’s important to stay informed, but too much information can be overwhelming.
  6. Take care of your physical health. Focus on exercising (at home or outside), maintaining a healthy diet, staying hydrated and getting a good night’s sleep.

Ideas for parents to help their children cope:

  1. Answer children’s questions and talk about the pandemic and current situation with them.
  2. Assure your children they are safe and that your family and community are prepared to handle the situation.
  3. Limit children’s exposure to social media and news coverage of the pandemic.
  4. Keep a structure in their lives, help them plan a routine for their day, just like they’d have if they were at school.

If even with these measures, stress and anxiety are overwhelming and are impacting your life, help is available.  Call 528-SAVE 24/7 to talk with a licensed mental health professional. 

Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board (CCMHRB):  Mental Health and Substance Use Services through Child Focus, Inc., Clermont Recovery Center, and Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health will continue to be available.  All of the agencies are taking precautions to limit personal contact when possible and providing services when appropriate through teleconferencing or phone calls.  Crisis services are available for any Clermont County resident and can be reached through the 24/7 Crisis Hotline 528-SAVE.  Mobile Crisis is still running, and it is encouraged that this service be utilized to try to divert individuals from the hospital when appropriate.  The Quick Response Teams (QRT) have suspended in person outreach, but the team is still accepting referrals and is trying to engage individuals via social media or telephone.  As of March 23, the CCMRHB staff will be working from home.  Staff can be reached by leaving a message at 732-5406 or staff person via cell phone if you have that number.  Information on coping with psychological distress is available on the website at ccmhrb.com.

Help is available! Our treatment agencies are still providing services. If you are in crisis, please call 528-SAVE 24/7.

Child Focus, Inc.                               752-1555              Children’s Mental Health Services

Clermont Recovery Center           735-8100              Substance Use Treatment for Adults and Adolescents

Greater Cincinnati Behavioral      947-7000             Adult Mental Health Services

If you need to reach the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board, you can send an email via our website (ccmhrb.org) or leave a message at 513-732-5400.



January 22, 2020

Drug overdoses decline for third-straight year

BATAVIA, Ohio (Jan. 22, 2020) – Deaths due to unintentional drug overdoses declined for the third-straight year in Clermont County, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).

Recently released data from ODH for the state and for each county indicated that in 2018, 80 deaths of Clermont County residents were caused by accidental drug overdoses. This compared to 105 in 2017, 96 in 2016, 91 in 2015, and 78 in 2014 – the largest decrease (24 percent) since Clermont County began to see the effects of increased opioid use in the late 2000s.

“We are encouraged by these numbers,” said Karen Scherra, the executive director of the Clermont County Mental Health & Recovery Board (MHRB). “These numbers indicate that the comprehensive measures we as a county have taken to address opioid use and addiction are working. However, we must maintain our efforts and try to expand them due to continued use of opioids and the rise in meth use to provide treatment options to those dealing with addiction.”

The MHRB, the county hub in the fight against opioid addiction, is the lead organization in Clermont County’s Opiate Task Force, a collaborative that began in 2013 to address the opioid crisis in the county.

In 2017 and 2018, additional medication-assisted treatment and other kinds of treatment became available to more people suffering from substance use disorders, Scherra said. In State Fiscal Year 2018 (7/1/18-6/30/19), MHRB spent almost $2 million on addiction treatment services, in addition to services funded through Medicaid and insurance.

Other advances in recent years included recovery coaches who provide peer support, more Quick Response Teams, which go to the homes of those who have survived overdoses to connect them to recovery resources; and more police/fire/EMS departments carrying Narcan, which can reverse overdoses.

In addition, a long-term recovery house for men opened in 2017 in Clermont County, and in June 2019, a women’s recovery house opened. Clermont County also implemented a women’s wing in the Community Alternative Sentencing Center, which initially was for men only. This jail alternative connects clients with multiple treatment options both while in the program and when released to the community.

Funding for these initiatives are provided through a combination of MHRB levy funds, state funds, and federal and state grants.

Clermont County Public Health, a member of the Opiate Task Force, is also on the forefront of the opioid battle.

“We are glad to see the number of deaths decrease,” Public Health Commissioner Julianne Nesbit said. “We will keep working on the public health impacts of the epidemic like working to reduce the spread of diseases like hepatitis and HIV that can be associated with drug use. We are committed to continuing to work with partners as we see the transition in drug use.”

More information on Clermont County’s Opiate Task Force can be found on its website, www.getcleannowClermont.org.

For more information, contact MHRB Executive Director Karen Scherra, kscherra@ccmhrb.org, 513.732.5400.


November 21, 2019

Tips to help minimize holiday stress

From Lee Ann Watson, associate director, Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board

BATAVIA, OH — Happy Holidays! Tis’ the Season for parties, activities galore, gatherings with family and friends, gift-giving, and…stress! While the holidays are meant to bring feelings of joy and cheer, it often ends up creating stress for many people. It’s no wonder… the holidays bring a dizzying array of demands—shopping, baking, cleaning, entertaining, etc. on top of our already hectic schedules. While positive stress (or esters) is necessary for our survival and zest for life, too much stress has a negative impact on our mental and physical health. With some practical tips, you can minimize your holiday stress.

  1. Don’t overcommit yourself. Too many activities can result in feeling overwhelmed, which in turn leads to stress. Decide what traditions offer the most positive impact or enjoyment and eliminate those that don’t. Set limits on what you will do this holiday season. You don’t have to say yes to everything. If you are too busy to bake those holiday cookies, buy some at the store!
  2. Eat and drink in moderation. An overabundance of parties can result in many people eating and drinking to excess. Enjoy the merriment, but also maintain control of healthy behaviors. The average person can gain up to 10 pounds during the holiday season. Avoid the guilt and stress of having to diet by eating and drinking in moderation. Have a healthy snack before the party so you aren’t tempted to eat lots of sweets, etc. And most importantly, don’t drink and drive!
  3. Spend in moderation. Finding affordable holiday gifts can be stressful in its self, not to mention braving the mall with the crowds of people. Develop a budget, and stick to it. Holiday debt creates stress that can last months after the holidays are over. Avoid the debt by planning ahead and save money for holiday gifts. Be creative… make your gifts or provide someone with a ‘service’ for a gift (car washing, house cleaning, baking) or do a family gift exchange.
  4. Slow down and make time for yourself. Spend 15 minutes alone…. walk, read a book, take a bubble bath… slowing your mind, and restoring inner piece goes a long way in providing you with balance in order to accomplish all the activities of the season.
  5. Seek professional health if you need it. If despite your best efforts, you find yourself constantly feeling sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep or sleeping too much, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face daily activities, reach out for help and support. There might be more going on than stress. Mental health professionals are available 24/7 at the Clermont County Crisis Hotline 513-528-SAVE.

Hopefully, with these tips, you can slow down and enjoy the holidays!


October 14, 2019

Turn in unused prescription drugs during DEA National Takeback

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


October 4, 2019

Recovery coaches help people overcome addiction, mental illness

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.


September 11, 2019

First Annual National Recovery Month Family Night Out Celebration, Sept. 24

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.

August 27, 2019

Lack of hope, isolation contribute to higher rates of suicide in middle-aged adults

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:

  • Middle-age white men (ages 45-64) complete suicide more than any other age group, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. White males accounted for seven in 10 suicide deaths in 2017.
  • Suicide rates for women 45-64 increased nearly 60 percent between 2000 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For men that age, the rate increased about 37 percent.
  • In 2017, Clermont County adults ages 45-54 had the highest rate of suicide, followed by those 85 and older.
  • Clermont County had the state’s 16th-highest suicide rate, 2008-1017, according to the Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Public Health. During that period, 310 people took their own lives, or nearly 16 per 100,000, representing 11,161 years of lost life. Just under half died from firearms.

“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:

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill oneself
  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online
  • Buying a gun, or stockpiling pills
  • Feeling empty, hopeless, or feeling like there is no reason to live
  • Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing from family or friends or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Saying good-bye to loved ones, putting affairs in order

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:

  • Visit standuptosuicide.org to register.
  • Check the box indicating interest in hosting a QPR training, finding one that’s scheduled in their area, or taking the training online
  • Submit the form

-QPR Training Scheduled at Child Focus, Inc. Training Center:

QPR Suicide Prevention Program  Tuesday, September 10, 2019  2:00pm to 4:00pm

QPR Suicide Prevention Program Monday, September 16 , 2019 6:00pm to 8:00pm

-Saturday, Sept. 28, 10 to 11:30 a.m., Miami Township Civic Center 6101 Meijer Drive, Milford, Oh 45150.  248-3727 to register.


August 23, 2019

18th annual Candlelight Vigil honoring loved ones lost to suicide

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.


August 8, 2019

Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board awards 14 mini-grants to local organizations

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.


July 31, 2019

More teens and parents see alcohol, marijuana use as OK

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.

“At least it’s not heroin,” they’ll tell her.

“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:

  • A youth-led Partners in Prevention group, with members of both West Clermont and Milford schools participating in a Pharming Affect peer-to-peer prevention program. (“We would like to have two representatives from every school district in Partners in Prevention,” Wolff said. “It’s a very powerful peer-to-peer group. We teach them SPF (Strategic Planning Framework).”)
  • Hidden in Plain Sight, a program that teaches parents and grandparents how to search for signs of drug use in their children’s rooms and trains for crucial conversations with kids.
  • Botvin Life Skills, an evidence-based health curriculum for middle schoolers with a high school refresher, a parent version for incarcerated moms and dads.
  • Funding the Caring School Communities for West Clermont School District.
  • The Solace support group for grieving families dealing with drug use and death and addiction.
  • PAL (Parents of Addicted Loved Ones) in conjunction with Mercy Health – Clermont Hospital, another education and support group for families dealing with addiction.
  • Participation in the first regional learning collaborative for youth prevention for Southwest Ohio and state legislative visits.
  • Monthly meetings the second Tuesday of the month at the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board office 2337 Clermont Center Drive, Batavia, Ohio 45103

For more information, please see: https://drugfreeclermont.org/  or call Mary Wolff at 513-735-8143