Ohio Governor Mike DeWine created the RecoveryOhio Initiative to coordinate and improve how the state addresses mental health and substance use disorders. The Advisory Council includes a diverse group of individuals who have worked to address mental illness or substance use issues in prevention, treatment, advocacy, or support services, as well as other government and community organizations

Our own Juliet Dorris-Williams was appointed to the council. On today’s show, Juliet talks about her experiences at meetings and with other members, as well as explains some of what RecoveryOhio means for the peer community. Listen now for more info about this exciting new initiative.

Show Notes:

7:29 – “. . . there were not only peers with lived experience, but there were also members of law enforcement. They were also judges. There was an ex-governor on the council. It just goes to show how much of our life, how much of society, comes to bear when we’re talking about how we support people living with mental illness and an addiction. And trauma prevention professionals were there.” (The RecoveryOhio Initiative aims to bring a diverse group together to improve care in Ohio.)

11:59 – “But when we go out into rural Ohio, you get a completely different take on advocacy.” (Peers across Ohio are not a monolithic group, we face different challenges.)

12:23 – “You may as well not have resources if people don’t know about it and people can’t access it. And so yes, we are resource rich but still so fragmented and siloed.” (Better funding does not necessarily lead to better care if the care delivery system is inadequate.)

15:22 – “Because . . . .mental illness and addiction, knows no boundaries with this.” (Mental illness, addiction, and trauma does not discriminate. It affects people in all walks of life.)

20:16 – “Because our work isn’t done. We were told that we weren’t done. The plan is out. but we weren’t done. Still open for feedback. . . . “ (The RecoveryOhio Initiative is not complete. Council members and government officials are still open to comments and critiques.)

Transcript of  “ RecoveryOhio Advisory Council’s Initial Report

Editor’s Note:  This transcript is computer generated and therefore may not be an exact match to the recording.

Announcer: [00:00:07] You’re listening to the PEER Voices podcast. This show is for peers, by peers, and focuses on information that’s important to our community. Here’s your hosts Juliet Dorris-Williams and Gabe Howard.

Gabe: [00:00:28] Hello everyone and welcome to PEER Voices. My name is Gabe Howard.

Juliet: [00:00:32] And I am Juliet Doris-Williams. Welcome, welcome.

Gabe: [00:00:34] Hello, and today we are going to talk about the RecoveryOhio Initiative. And I’m sure that many peers have seen this in the news. It’s Governor DeWine’s initiative where we’ve got a whole bunch of people together.

Juliet: [00:00:45] Yes.

Gabe: [00:00:46] And one of those people was Juliet Dorris-Williams.

Juliet: [00:00:49] Moi, yes.

Gabe: [00:00:50] And they talked about, well many things, mental illness, mental health issues in our community, drug addiction, alcoholism. It was just this big meeting to address essentially mental health concerns in our community.

Juliet: [00:01:05] Yes. And as we all know, or as we should know, there is a big cross section in our community with other issues in our community. There’s a big connection with law enforcement, with criminal justice. There’s a big connection with homelessness. And wow. And so all of those issues came to bear in some very very intense conversations that the advisory council had. In the space that we had. And we were we were doing sometimes two meetings a week. And it was a very intensive process to get to this plan that was released just a few days ago.

Gabe: [00:01:47] And the whole point of this group, the group that you were a member of them, was to make this plan?

Juliet: [00:01:54] Well, yes. To make the plan and to hopefully inform the governor’s process for budget prep. Because I believe the budget is due June or July of this year. They have their whole legislative process for how to develop and approve a budget for two years. And so this was this very ambitious, actually the final report in my opinion is very ambitious. But the whole point of it was to inform his decisions and his request for submitting the budget.

Gabe: [00:02:31] Because historically, Ohio has either been horrible when it comes to funding of mental health or, you know, they’ve never been adequate. I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. They’ve certainly never been Gold Star where we’re just tripping over money in the mental health and addiction space. We’ve sort of been mediocre and we’ve funded a lot of things. But you know, there’s always been shortages of beds, shortages of help for people who are homeless, crisis points are always, you know? We’ve struggled as a state, and I believe Governor DeWine is trying to fix that. He’s trying to make us not struggle as a state but actually meet people where they are and give them the help that they need. No guarantee that he’ll get there. But that’s what he’s trying to do. Correct?

Juliet: [00:03:15] There is a full acknowledgment about the inadequacy of our current system, and there were people on the Advisory Council who have a much longer history in the Ohio process of how we treat and fund and support people living with mental illness or addiction. And there were lots of concerns and lots of hopes in the room that we were going to do better. They were going to do better, and I think the press conference that happened just a few days ago, the people who were charged with talking points for for that press conference, totally acknowledged that inadequacies happened. Inadequacies exists, did continue to exist. And I believe it was Terry Russell who actually, who is the executive director of NAMI-Ohio, indicated that it was the first time in a very long time that he had some hope that that we were going to do better as a state. And he was. And his simple declaration that someone actually put it in writing as to a potential a plan. A path forward. He was very impressed with that, that it was in writing. And so and it is in writing. So for anybody who wants to read it.

Gabe: [00:04:49] Where can somebody read this? I mean I’m sure you can just google RecoveryOhio Advisory Council plan, but is there like a specific web site for this? You could probably go to Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Juliet: [00:05:02] Yes, if you go to their web site. It came out in the E News, I think it’s called? The newsletter that the Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services Department has. They issue that every year.

Gabe: [00:05:16] It comes out every week, or it’s supposed to.

Juliet: [00:05:20] It’s often. It’s whenever it comes out, as I read it, I read it on to the staff. Every time it comes. And so it comes out frequently. So it’s there, it exists. So it’s called the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council Initial Report March 2019. So wander out there.

Gabe: [00:05:41] Now there’s some things that we should note. Obviously, I don’t know Ohio’s entire history from the time they were minted as a state until today. But I have been working in mental health for almost 15 years, and I know you’ve been working in Ohio for a long time, and we know a lot of people. I believe this is the first time that a governor has actually heard from people who have lived experience? You were on the board. You have lived experience with mental illness. There was another woman on the board who has direct lived experience with addiction. Thompson? Sarah Thompson, with I believe alcohol and addiction?

Juliet: [00:06:13] Oh car. She’s the executive director of O car, which I sometimes forget what those initials stand for. But, yeah. She was there. I was the mental health peer quote, air quotes, and she was the addiction peer, air quotes.

Gabe: [00:06:31] Again I’m sure that somebody would be like, “Well, back in 1956 somebody asked one peer!” But it was never-

Juliet: [00:06:37] Others. There were others, though. Others that were not in the space because of that lived experience. They were in the space because of what their current job was, what their job experience was, not necessarily because of their lived experience. And so there were a couple of us that were totally in the space because of our lived experience.

Gabe: [00:06:57] So, this is great. Because we’re starting to get that message out there. You know, we talk about where the peer movement is heading. We’ve always talked about wanting a seat at the table.

Juliet: [00:07:05] Yes.

Gabe: [00:07:06] And you have a seat at the table.

Juliet: [00:07:08] Yes.

Gabe: [00:07:08] And I can already hear arguments, “Well, it’s not enough. We deserved two people, we deserve four, and we deserve. . . ” Yes. I do agree with that. But I think that this is trending. That somebody, especially the governor, somebody, you know, that has the authority to assign money and help us, recognizes the importance of having people with lived experience on the council.

Juliet: [00:07:29] The fact that there were not only peers with lived experience, but there were also members of law enforcement. They were also judges. There was an ex-governor on the council. It just goes to show how much of our life, how much of society, comes to bear when we’re talking about how we support people living with mental illness and an addiction. And trauma prevention professionals were there. And through the life cycle of all of us, it was it was fascinating in that respect. In that all of that there were no silos in that room. And that actually came up a lot, about how our services, and our our support services, are so are siloed, to use that word again. And fragmented. And how we don’t work well together. And so it was our hope that was going to be one outcome of this, of having this very comprehensive, ambitious plan. Is that our services would no longer be so siloed and fragmented.

Gabe: [00:08:48] Do you feel that there was a good group in the room? I mean, you were the only one in there. So I’m sort of asking, you know, Juliet Dorris-Williams’ opinion. Obviously, the group is what it is. The report is out.

Juliet: [00:08:59] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:09:00] You know, how do you feel that we did? I mean how many people were on this? Is this fair?

Juliet: [00:09:05] There are 16. Sixteen appointed council members. However, the meetings were also open to the public. So at any random time, random people would be there. I actually introduced myself and met several people that I probably wouldn’t have opportunity to have dialogue with. But those people who were in the space were sometimes invited to the table. So, there throughout the plan, there are different places where harm reduction is mentioned and highlighted for various activities. And they were in the room, they were in the back of the room. And when we occasionally we would break off into committees, and they were invited to the table to be subject matter experts, as it were. And so if you come to a public meeting, you’re subject to be called on. Because we or they introduce themselves, so it’s like that. So that’s who’s in the room today. Yay.

Gabe: [00:10:09] That’s excellent. So obviously this is PEER Voices. So for the rest of the time, you know, put on your peer hat.

Juliet: [00:10:16] Okay.

Gabe: [00:10:16] And I have some questions about how this is going to impact us with peers. And the first question I have is, you know, what’s on a lot of peers’ mind, whenever we hear about legislation, or government, or funding, we immediately think of forced treatment. It’s a big thing in our community. Is the governor aware of this, too? Does the report address it? I mean the old standby of, “Oh, we’ll just pick everybody up and force them to take medication!” It scares people in our community and we’ve wanted to see this addressed for a long time. Were there any conversations surrounding that?

Juliet: [00:10:47] Nothing specifically came up about that. However, let me approach it from a crisis stabilization standpoint. Crisis stabilization came up a lot. There was a big and I believe that actually might be the first. I’m taking my peer hat back off. Sorry. I think that might be the first budget language that I heard about after the plan was released, or even just before the plan was released, about funding crisis stabilization across the state. This came up a lot. And so, I think this is connected. That is connected to the forced treatment, again air quotes, issue. People are interested in having resources when people are in crisis and way more than what we have. And there’s some, or certain, areas of our state that none exist at all. And so there is an interest in getting people to a place where they can be stabilized.

Gabe: [00:11:53] Thank you. And that really leads me into my next question. You know we live in Columbus, Ohio.

Juliet: [00:11:58] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:11:59] And we work with people all over the state. And I’ve noticed when we’re in Cleveland, or Cincinnati, or even Dayton, or Toledo, you know it’s some of the larger cities. There are services. There’s not enough, but there are services there. But when we go out into rural Ohio, you get a completely different take on advocacy where they’re like, “Look, no money is coming our way.”

Juliet: [00:12:20] Yes.

Gabe: [00:12:20] Does this report address that? What can we tell our rural peers?

Juliet: [00:12:23] And that is exactly it, going back to the crisis stabilization act. It comes up a lot. And I think people, we live here or we work or operate here, in Columbus and there’s this. I think it’s a misnomer in that. Well, we’re in resource a resource rich area. And the fact of the matter is, that resources are here, but the resources are so fragmented that nobody knows. We’re still telling people who The PEER Center is. And we’ve been in existence for 12 years. And so, people never heard of you. OK. And so the silo effect, the fragmentation of services. You may as well not have resources if people don’t know about it and people can’t access it. And so yes, we are resource rich but still so fragmented and siloed. Rural Ohio, they don’t have resources. So it’s got almost the same thing. They don’t know where to send people or they don’t have anywhere to send people. And so it’s a problem. And yes it was addressed.

Gabe: [00:13:23] It’s a big problem and it’s interesting to think, you know, one of the advantages of being in Columbus is we have lots of support groups. It seems like, you know, that’s something that’s very well funded in the bigger cities. I once said that I could probably go to a different support group every day of the week and not have to revisit the group.

Juliet: [00:13:40] True.

Gabe: [00:13:41] When you get out into the rural areas, especially with distance and the number of people, there’s a lot less of them. But as to your point, you know even in Columbus, do we have more beds? Yes. But we have 20 times as many people, right?

Juliet: [00:13:53] So that we still don’t have enough. Not enough.

Gabe: [00:13:55] Do you think that the report addresses not having enough? I mean, are we hopeful about this? Because it exists on all levels there.

Juliet: [00:14:06] There are other things other than this plan that obviously is designed to cover the state. To talk about the state the state, as it were. There are local things going on with respect to making sure that people know that there is, that people can just walk in and get services there. So there are local efforts going on. And I obviously can’t speak about other efforts, other areas of the state. Because I’m not there. So . . .

Gabe: [00:14:37] But you feel that the report acknowledges that?

Juliet: [00:14:40] Yeah.

Gabe: [00:14:40] So often we see these things only address the big cities.

Juliet: [00:14:43] Yes.

Gabe: [00:14:44] Rural Ohio.

Juliet: [00:14:45] I think it is. I think it is good.

Gabe: [00:14:47] Here’s my next question again. Putting on the Juliet peer hat up there now –

Juliet: [00:14:51] I’m going to try to put the right one. To keep that hat on, it’s hard.

Gabe: [00:14:55] No, I completely understand. You are who you are. But peers want to know, in your opinion –

Juliet: [00:15:01] Yes. And just asking in my opinion.

Gabe: [00:15:02] Do you think the governor understand what it’s like to live with mental illness or have an addiction issue in Ohio? Because it’s important for him to understand that. Did you get a sense that he’d listen? That he understood? That he cared? I know these are very, very big questions. But you’re the only one we can ask.

Juliet: [00:15:22] Well, I’m not actually the only one. There are 15 other people you can ask. But I’m here and I’m they’re not. They’re not in the room, and then yes. They’re not peers. So, I should say first that governor wasn’t actually present for all of our meetings. But I think you can tell a lot about a person by the people they surround themselves with. And so the person that he selected as the director for RecoveryOhio is someone that I do absolutely know, because they have experience with our local ADAM board. And so they’re known. That people with experience. The person who was recently appointed as the director of Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services, Lori Criss, is someone who’s known to have experience with peers and the surrounding issues that impact peers. And so you can tell a lot about a person. I was particularly impressed with that fact. Maybe we should talk about the small pushback we got from some of our fans, who may not be fans anymore, because we were a part of this initiative. Because he’s a Republican governor. And I was impressed with the fact that he had and a former governor. Former Governor Strickland, who was on the other side of the aisle as they say, to make this a truly bipartisan effort. Because addiction, mental illness and addiction, knows no boundaries with this. And maybe this is for another podcast, is that we need to figure out, and I guess I’m putting on my social worker hat right now, we need to figure out how we cannot be single issue people. We may not agree with every single thing that a person with power, that’s been elected to an office, we may not agree with their platform. Not every single item. But on certain things, we can say we agree. And we need to grow up. And show some respect to that. Because everybody’s just not going to agree.

Gabe: [00:17:45] Whether we agree with them or not, is not going to change who the governor is. And if we have politicians or elected leaders in power that want to help us, telling them no based on the letter that comes after their name seems incredibly foolish to me.

Juliet: [00:17:59] Just based on their political party, based on their, I don’t know what are the other things that that divide us? Race?

Gabe: [00:18:08] Race, right.

Juliet: [00:18:09] Gender. Whatever their status is. I don’t know. But there are certain issues that cross all socioeconomic boundaries and political boundaries. And this is one of them.

Gabe: [00:18:24] Absolutely, we have to find ways to come together. I mean that really is the bottom line. I became part of the, you know, the peer movement, the mental illness advocacy movement, because I felt alone. I felt like nobody was sticking up for me. I felt like I was the only one. And I have found over the last 15 years this great community.

Juliet: [00:18:42] Of course.

Gabe: [00:18:43] That includes people who listen to the show, it includes you, Juliet. It includes The PEER Center. It includes people all over the nation. And it would be absolutely ridiculous to think that all of the people that we have stuff in common with when it comes to advocacy agree with us on everything.

Juliet: [00:18:58] No.

Gabe: [00:18:59] I’m sure we all like different music.

Juliet: [00:19:01] Right.

Gabe: [00:19:01] We all like different foods and –

Juliet: [00:19:03] Right.

Gabe: [00:19:04] And we’re probably in different political camps as well.

Juliet: [00:19:07] Yes.

Gabe: [00:19:08] But we’ve found a way to come together.

Juliet: [00:19:10] Just like recovery. We as a philosophy embrace all pathways. And the one thing that we do agree on is, whatever my pathway is, whatever your pathway is, it’s valid. But we’re completely all singing from the same hymn book when it comes to that. We all we need support to get well, to stay well, to, well, to just be. Be well. To just be well. I have no other way to say that we need support.

Gabe: [00:19:45] I agree completely. We’re down to the final couple of minutes Juliet. Are there any parting thoughts on this? Is there anything left for peers to know about this initiative?

Juliet: [00:19:57] One, they need to go find the plan. Read the plan. Give feedback about the plan. I’m open to it. If anybody feels that something is missing, email me. Or, how did they get in touch with us? I don’t know. From this podcast?

Gabe: [00:20:13] They can e-mail info@ThePEERCenter.org. They can do that.

Juliet: [00:20:16] And say, you know, give me some feedback about what your thoughts are with respect to the work of the advisory council. Because our work isn’t done. We were told that we weren’t done. The plan is out. but we weren’t done. Still open for feedback. But don’t just rattle off stuff if you haven’t actually read the thing. Read the plan, then give feedback.

Gabe: [00:20:41] Respectfully.

Juliet: [00:20:42] Thank you.

Gabe: [00:20:43] And I can tell everybody that’s just not a Juliet thing, or a The PEER Center thing, or a Columbus, Ohio thing. As advocates, we’re gonna catch way more flies with honey. State your case respectfully. Leave the conversation open, and you’re gonna change a lot more minds.

Juliet: [00:20:57] Hey, it’s a human thing.

Gabe: [00:20:58] It’s a human thing. And that address again for anybody that missed it is info@ThePEERCenter.org. Thank you, everybody, for tuning in, to this episode of PEER Voices, and we’ll see you next time.

Gabe: [00:21:09] Thank you. Bye-bye.

Gabe & Juliet: [00:21:10] Bye!

Announcer: [00:21:10] You’ve been listening to the PEER Voices podcast sponsored by The PEER Center with a grant from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. To learn more about this podcast, please visit OhioPeers.org. To learn more about The PEER Center please visit ThePEERCenter.org. We encourage you to share this podcast with other peers in our community. Thank you for listening, and see you next time on PEER Voices.