Hancock County Team Holds Stepping Up Planning Session with Retired Justice Elizabeth Stratton to Reduce the Number of Persons with Mental Illness in Ohio Jails

On Wednesday, August 10, Retired Justice Elizabeth Stratton and other state officials met in Findlay to lead a group of community leaders through a planning session as part of the Ohio Stepping Up Initiative.


Ohio has joined a growing national effort to reduce the number of persons with mental illness who cycle through county jails. The Stepping Up Initiative brings local criminal justice and behavioral health systems together to improve public safety, access to services, and treatment outcomes.


The Stepping Up Initiative was launched in May 2015 as a partnership of The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice CenterThe National Association of Counties, and The American Psychiatric Association Foundation. The initiative is designed to rally national, state, and local leaders around the goal of reducing the number of people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders in jail.


“Ohio has been a leader in establishing mental health and veterans courts, developing Crisis Intervention Teams in law enforcement, and other efforts to reform the criminal justice system for persons with mental illness,” said retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, who will serve as project director of the Ohio Stepping Up Initiative. “Once again, we are proud to be a leader in a national effort. Our work through the Stepping Up Initiative will improve public safety, break the cycle of jail for persons with mental illness, and increase their access to treatment.”


Each year, an estimated two million people with serious mental illnesses are admitted to jails across the nation – a rate that’s three to six times higher than that of the general public. Nearly three-quarters of these adults also have drug and alcohol use problems. Once incarcerated, individuals with mental illnesses tend to stay longer in jail and upon release are at a higher risk of returning to incarceration than those without these illnesses.


“The number of people with mental illnesses in U.S. jails has reached a crisis level,” said OhioMHAS Director Plouck, who also serves on the CSG Justice Center’s national board of directors. “The vast majority of these individuals who have committed minor offenses can be safely treated, and if necessary, placed under community supervision, instead of being put behind bars. We’re excited to join this effort and look forward to working with our partners at all levels to help counties achieve their goals.”


Since its launch, Stepping Up has garnered widespread support among criminal justice, behavioral health and advocacy groups such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness. To date, more than 270 counties in 41 states have passed resolutions to advance the goals of Stepping Up.


“NAMI Ohio has advocated for better coordination between the criminal justice and mental health systems for years,” said Terry Russell, executive director. “We look forward to further collaboration with Ohio’s county sheriffs, jail administrators, judges, community corrections professionals, treatment providers, family members and people impacted by mental illness to provide them with the tools, resources and technical assistance to deal with this issue in a more humane and cost effective manner.”


Learn more about the Stepping Up Initiative at https://stepuptogether.org/. View a map of participating Ohio counties, and discover more about Ohio’s efforts to reduce the number of criminal offenders with untreated mental illness and/or substance use disorders who continually cycle through county jails at: http://mha.ohio.gov/Default.aspx?tabid=852

Community Lecture Series Begins August 24, 2016

The University of Findlay College of Pharmacy will offer the community lecture series “Combatting Chemical Dependency: A Community Effort” again this fall.
The lecture series will meet on Wednesdays from 6-8pm, beginning August 24, 2016 in the Davis Building, Room 2225.
The lecture series will provide an in-depth look into various systems in our community that work with substance abuse issues.
Click HERE to view the class Guest Speaker list.

Findlay’s Focus on Friends Earns National Accolade

Saturday, August 20, 2016



Focus on Friends has been honored on the national level for Recovery Month efforts last year.

The nonprofit organization has been recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation.

Focus on Friends is a peer-led recovery center for people in recovery from mental illness, substance abuse, trauma and related issues. Last year, it organized Findlay’s first Recovery Month, a celebration of recovery held nationwide every September.

This week, Focus on Friends learned the event was selected by a panel of judges as the winner in the rally and walk/run events category of SAMHSA’s Recovery Month Annual Event Award Program.

Focus on Friends’ executive director, Wayne Ford, will travel to Washington, D.C., to accept the award at a luncheon Sept. 8 at the National Press Club.

The award had three categories: rally and walk/ run, educational events and special celebrations.

Ellyn Schmiesing, recovery accountability manager at Focus on Friends, said the recovery march in Findlay was a unifying experience in the community and raised awareness that people in recovery are just like anyone else.

“Everybody came together,” she said.

She said it was meaningful to see about 240 people gather together to support this effort, to devote a morning “to say, hey, I value recovery, and recovery’s important to me.”

Focus on Friends submitted an application in April with information about the events and how they strove to include everyone in the recovery community — including those in recovery, their families, treatment providers, advocates and the general public.

Findlay’s first Recovery March was held Sept. 12, 2015, sponsored by Focus on Friends, the Hancock County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services and St. Marks United Methodist Church.

Following the march was a rally with keynote speakers including Hancock County Common Pleas Judge Reginald Routson, who spoke about changing the justice system’s approach to addiction and recovery; Eric McKee, a business owner who spoke about his experience with treatment-resistant depression; and Andrea Boxill, deputy director of Gov. John Kasich’s cabinet opiate action team. Planning the event involved forming new partnerships, Focus on Friends wrote in the application.

The organization also reported that the event helped unite the recovery community and raise awareness in the broader community.

Schmiesing said the recognition speaks highly of Findlay as “an amazing community” which came together for Recovery Month.

“When they rally around an issue … amazing things can happen,” she said.

Ivette Torres, associate director of consumer affairs at the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at SAMHSA, said Focus on Friends was honored for doing “an outstanding job” of creating an event. Applicants were reviewed extensively by a panel of subject matter experts.

Torres said this recognition helps carry SAMHSA’s message “that recovery is possible, that recovery does happen and that the people that need to get into recovery can look at the light at the end of the tunnel and pick up a phone and call for help.”

Focus on Friends is located at 509 W. Trenton Ave. and can be reached at 419-423-5071.Focus on Friends is currently planning activities for Recovery Month 2016. The Courier will be reporting on it in the near future.

Arthurs: 419-427-8494 saraarthurs@ thecourier.com Twitter: @swarthurs

ADAMHS Welcomes New Board Chairman

The Hancock County ADAMHS Board welcomes John Kissh as its new Chairman. John’s Chairmanship began July 1, 2016 and will continue to June 30, 2017. John previously served as the Board Vice-Chair and has been a very active member during his tenure as a Board Member. John is a retired attorney, originally from White Plains, NY, and enjoys spending quality time with his wife and children. John has stated that he is passionate about mental health and substance use issues because, “these problems have affected our family as well as friends at work.”

Family Resource Center Names New CEO



John J. Bindas Sr. was named as President/CEO of The Family Resource Center of Northwest Ohio and began on June 27, 2016.

John has an extensive record of service in non-profit social service organizations and association work.  His prior social service experience includes 16 years with Volunteers of America, Michigan, a $15 million, 300 + employee, non-profit agency serving in many roles including his last role as Chief Operating Officer.  As a result, John developed expertise in leadership of all operations including: Social Services Programming, Program Development, Thrift Systems, Training and Accreditation, Community Engagement, Fund Development, Marketing, Strategic Planning and Information Technology.

In his most recent role he served as CEO of the School-Community Health Alliance of Michigan working with MDHHS (Michigan Department of Health and Human Services) and 118 school based health centers across Michigan.  In this capacity, John was also the registered lobbyist agent for the organization and advocated on behalf of the organization’s members.  John had great success in his advocacy efforts, orchestrating a grassroots movement to re-establish $2 million in funding with a $4 million Medicaid match back into the 2016 Michigan state budget for school based health centers.

John looks forward to working with staff members and the community to fulfill the mission of The Family Resource Center of Northwest Ohio.  He states “The Family Resource Center of Northwest Ohio has a long-standing tradition of serving the community and clients throughout Northwest Ohio with passion and distinction. It is truly an honor to join this FRC team of professionals who are so dedicated to helping people rebuild their lives and reach their full potential.”

Click HERE to visit the Family Resource Center website.

NAMI of Hancock County Names New Director



The National Alliance of Mental Illness of Hancock County (NAMI) would like to announce the hiring of a new Executive Director.  It is our honor to welcome aboard Sunny Davis-McNeil.  Sunny is originally from Fostoria, Ohio.  She moved to Findlay in 1999 to begin a new journey.  Sunny’s first stop to starting over began with Hope House Homeless Shelter.  Sunny began working as a full-time nursing’s assistant for over 14 years and also assisting in a behavioral unit for 5 years.  In 2010, Sunny had started working for Hope House as their Housing Resource Advocate and eventually moved up to Housing Resource Case Manager.  Sunny stated, “I owe a lot to Hope House for mentoring me. I not only had the personal experience to fulfill my job, but I also learned a lot along the way from the staff.  Anyone that knows me knows I am a hard, dedicated worker with passion and am willing to do what I can to make big things happen!”  Sunny left Hope House in 2015 to pursue a college education in Social Work and spend some time with her children at home.

Sunny has been involved in numerous activities within Hancock County. Sunny completed Hancock Leadership in 2011 and was the Treasurer of Hancock Coordinating Council.  She is currently a Foster parent through SAFY in Findlay.  Sunny and her wife Melissa currently have six children and can sometimes have the house filled with up to ten children.  Sunny and Melissa have adopted three beautiful children and are in the process of welcoming another child into the family.

Sunny is ready to set forth on this new journey at NAMI. Her goals are to make the organization grow and raise more awareness of the mental health issues here in Hancock County.  “The stigma is real”, Sunny stated.  “Some might not understand why their family member or members are going through depression, bi-polar, etc. and say, ‘oh just get up… get over it’. Mental illness is no different from you having a heart attack or having kidney failure.  Once treated and with the right treatment into place, you can live a happy, productive life.   My goal is to get the word out to the community about what NAMI has to offer.  As I look at the overall process, I wish I would have known about NAMI when I was coming out of Homelessness or dealing with some of the tragic events in my life.  The groups that NAMI offers can be an added support when you need an extra ear to listen or you just feel as if no one understands your mental illness.  Some individual’s do not understand why they are feeling the way they do or what is going on with them.  In the groups we provide, you gain education, support, and advocacy.    With some of our groups, he or she can learn a lot about his or her diagnosis and medications they might be taking.  He or she can come together with individuals that will understand and accept him or her without judging their situation.”

If you see Sunny in the community, stop her and ask her to tell you more about what we do at NAMI.  See how we can help you or maybe how you can help others that maybe struggling with a mental illness.  Sunny would like the community to know, “NAMI is here for individuals, families, friends or anyone that might be struggling with a mental illness or know someone that is struggling.  We want to get you to the right resources in our community and we have groups that are supportive to your needs.”  If you would like to know how you can help contact Sunny Davis-McNeil at executivedirector@namiofhancock.org or you can call 419-425-5988 ext.176

NAMI is looking for volunteers, facilitators for our groups.  You can also fine our donation list on our website at www.NAMIofhancock.org