COVID Care Teams are dispatching across the state to help neighborhoods recover from the social and emotional health challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services (MHARS) Board has launched Lorain County’s team to offer community-based outreach and education to relieve stress and anxiety, especially if those stresses are or may become health concerns.
COVID Care Team members provide free, friendly advice and connections to local resources. Officially known as a Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program, the local COVID Care Team has trained, knowledgeable Care Counselors ready to help people navigate issues that are causing them stress and anxiety, or to find treatment for anxiety-related concerns.
MHARS Interim Director Elaine Georgas describes the personal connection and resourcefulness of the COVID Care Counselors as “extraordinary.” She says that the teams have already helped navigate people through everything from lack of hot meals to fear over COVID-like symptoms to unemployment challenges to grief and loneliness due to being physically separated from family members.
“These are all things that were causing people anxiety that could lead to health conditions or challenges,” said Georgas. “A member of our COVID Care Team listened, and helped.”
This is a local partnership between the MHARS Board, El Centro, and the Elyria YWCA, and is part of Ohio’s COVID Care program from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The Lorain County COVID Care Team is part of a federally funded short-term disaster relief grant awarded to states after a presidential disaster declaration. The grant supports community-based outreach, counseling and other mental health services during the COVID pandemic.
The neighbor-to-neighbor approach of the COVID Care Team also inspires the community to get involved in supporting each other, said Georgas. Community conversations have led to food drives, check-ins on elderly residents, and other connections that can be a protection to an individual’s mental health and well-being.
“The beauty of this assistance is that it is for everybody,” says Tim Williams, who is leading the CARE Counselors at the YWCA. “So often when communities receive this type of support, it’s like, ‘Do you qualify? No, you don’t meet all of this eligibility criteria.’ The COVID Care Team recognizes that everyone is struggling in some way right now; everyone has anxieties. We are here as a friendly resource, for anyone who lives in Lorain County.”
Williams noted that his team has supported people who are homeless, and people who are running businesses. He said that the COVID Care Team can help regardless of a person’s walk of life, and the team is serving people countywide.
Thelma Cruz with the El Centro outreach group echoed Williams’ remarks.
“We are here to help, whether you speak English or Spanish, are employed or unemployed, are a mom, dad, live alone. We offer help where you are and hope when you need it,” she said.
To connect to the Team, call 440-240-7025 or 440-322-6308, and ask for a COVID Care Counselor. Visit mharslc.org/covidcare to learn more.
The MHARS Board is the local behavioral health authority. Its mission is to improve the well-being of all members of our community by planning for, establishing and maintaining an effective, efficient, and quality system of mental health, addiction and recovery services for Lorain County.
Brought to you by your Board and the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, this program for participating counties reimburses employers for:
- Development and legal review of employer policies and procedures about substance use issues.
- Training for employees to understand substance use and their employer’s related policies.
- Training to equip supervisors and managers to better manage employees in recovery.
- Drug testing for prospective and current employees in recovery.
The program also provides access to a free employee wellness incentive program, BWC’s Better You, Better Ohio.
To sign up, or for more information, visit www.bwc.ohio.gov. Or contact:
Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation
Director, Substance Use Recovery and Workplace Safety Program
FREE Virtual Training on January 26: Recovery Supports and Tools for Families Suffering with a Loved One’s Substance Use Disorder, presented by the MHARS Board’s new Dissemination and Implementation Officer of Prevention Services, Tonya Birney. Free CEUs. Register: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/401076965213593103Learn More
The Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services (MHARS) Board announces four new members of its clinical team. The team is essential to the Board’s mission of planning, funding and monitoring a network of mental health and substance use services for Lorain County residents.
“I am pleased to tell the community about the talented individuals who will be working on their behalf at the Board,” said Interim Director Elaine Georgas.
|Mark Johnson now leads the team as the Community Services Director. He is a Licensed Independent Social Worker-Supervision, with a Master of Science in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University. He started his career as a therapist serving children and families. Then, he held several roles including Clinical Services Director over two decades for a community-based mental health and substance use disorder treatment agency with multiple Northeast Ohio sites. He now brings his clinical and administrative aptitude to his work in Lorain County.|
|Tonya Birney joins the team in a new role as Dissemination and Implementation Officer of Prevention Services. Birney earned her Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling from Walden University. She is a Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor, Ohio Certified Prevention Consultant, and Licensed Professional Counselor, and a trainer for multiple programs. In a previous role, she provided administrative oversite and supervision for behavioral health and public health, including alcohol and drug outpatient treatment, behavioral health prevention, and harm reduction services. Birney lives in Grafton.|
|A resident of Lorain, Rebecca Jones joins the team as the Child and Adolescent Services Director. Jones is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor-Supervision with a Master of Education in Community Agency Counseling. Most recently, she served as a clinical director at the largest mental health care provider in the MHARS Board network. She has worked in community mental health for 20 years, with extensive experience in providing clinical oversight of behavioral health services to diverse populations. She is known for developing and implementing best-practice clinical programming to meet the needs of the community.|
|Amanda Divis will serve as the Board’s Treatment and Recovery Services Director. Following graduate school at Case Western Reserve University, Divis began her career conducting in-home community-based therapy for adolescents with co-occurring substance use and mental health concerns. She has addressed mental health and recovery needs with people of all ages and from diverse backgrounds in the individual, group and family-based settings. She is dedicated to community-based mental health, addiction recovery and harm reduction programming. Divis is a resident of Avon Lake.|
At their December Board of Directors meeting, the Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services (MHARS) Board of Lorain County approved funds to four local school districts for prevention programming. The funding will support the social and emotional needs of students, teachers and families.
Multiple school districts are working with MHARS Board staff to assess their needs and resources, and develop creative plans for wellness. The first cohort of districts to finish their plans and receive funding approval are Avon Lake City Schools, Clearview Local Schools, North Ridgeville City Schools and Wellington Exempted Village Schools.
“The funds will be utilized in a variety of ways across the district,” North Ridgeville City Schools Social Worker Chelsea Freeman said. “We are very lucky to be awarded such a grant in the middle of a pandemic.”
Freeman added that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs of students are increasing.
The goal is to develop effective evidence-based strategies to help children build resiliency and reduce risk factors that contribute to behavioral health conditions including substance use, anxiety and depression.
“Prevention education is so important, now so more than ever, and the K-12 prevention funding is allowing Avon Lake City Schools to not only keep our programing going, but to make adjustments that will help even more students,” said Superintendent Bob Scott.
Strategies that were approved across districts include expanded screenings for students, mentoring, trauma-informed care training for staff, mindfulness opportunities for students, and family engagement enhancements.
“The Wellington Exempted Village School District is excited to partner with the Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services Board of Lorain County to bring exciting new programming to our students including the Second Step Program, Yoga in the Classroom, and the ROX girls curriculum. These new programs are ideal to support our students in these difficult times,” noted Edward Weber, Wellington’s Superintendent.
At the high school, the Ruling Our Experiences, or ROX, program to will build leadership skills for young women.
“I think the ROX program is going to be an amazingly beneficial program for many girls including myself,” said Wellington junior Harley Wallace. “Personally, I believe I will benefit from being a ROX girl because I will become more confident in myself, and be more comfortable in a public setting.”
“The K-12 Prevention Education Initiative is a partnership with our Board and local school districts to help achieve Ohio’s goal of prevention services for every child in every grade, every school,” said MHARS Interim Executive Director Elaine Georgas. “School districts complete an assessment either for their district or a specific building in key areas: planning, partnerships, family engagement, data informed decision-making school planning teams, policies, program identification and selection, peer opportunities for students and staff support and professional development. This assessment is used to create a plan for which MHARS offers technical assistance.”
The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) distributed $18 million to support prevention education for students in grades K-12. The MHARS Board received an allocation of $433,986 for local public, private and charter schools that successfully complete the funding request process.
Jerome Davis, the Superintendent of the Clearview Local Schools, said that the prevention funding is an exciting opportunity to create new approaches, like a calming room on a school’s campus.
“As more and more young people are facing issues with fear, anxiety, and disappointment, it brings me great pride in there being a safe space in our school district whereby we can help ease some of the anxiety and traumatic experiences,” he said. “Trauma encompasses a lot from divorce to illness to death. We will have that comforting space to help deal with these stressful situations. It is truly exciting to have the opportunity to provide that space for our students.”
“We are pleased that the four districts have moved forward to create sustainable plans focused on the well-being of their students, school personnel and the families of the students particularly during this school year, which has been unique due to COVID-19. Now more than ever, the social-emotional needs of students are a priority,” said Georgas.
“Together we can get through this crisis and together we can help those in need,” added Superintendent Scott.
Other districts are in the process of developing their plans. To learn more about the K-12 Prevention Initiative and how your school districts can access Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programming supports and receive technical assistance from Tonya Birney, the MHARS Board’s Dissemination and Implementation Officer for Prevention Services, contact 440-434-5713 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The MHARS Board is the local behavioral health authority. Its mission is to improve the well-being of all members of our community by planning for, establishing and maintaining an effective, efficient, and quality system of mental health, addiction and recovery services for Lorain County.Learn More
Join an informational Hope Hour to introduce the Community of Hope Transitional Age Youth Volunteer Mentorship program to Lorain County. The program connects young adults ages 18 to 25 to a group of adult volunteer mentors called communities. The Hope Hour will be held via Zoom, on Tuesday, January 12, 2021, at 6:30 pm. Registration is required.Learn More
November is National Family Caregivers Month. Our network of mental health and substance use treatment providers serves more than 16,000 people each year. Though we cannot calculate the number of neighbors, family members, friends, and loved ones who made that care even more successful, we appreciate your efforts each day. Thank you for watching out for someone who is struggling.
According to Mental Health America:
There are over 60 million Americans who are unpaid caregivers to family, friends and neighbors.
One in 5 caregivers help someone with a mental illness.
Forty-five percent of caregivers for adults with mental illness are parents, 14 percent are adult children and 11 percent are spouses.
The need for caregivers is expected to continue to grow as the US older adult population increases.
Caregiving can often have a significant impact on the life of the caregiver in more ways than one. It can make maintaining your physical and mental health more difficult and may put a strain on work and social life.
Caregivers of people with mental illness are 15 percent more likely to feel emotional stress, 11 percent more likely to report fair or poor health and 9 percent more likely to feel financial strain than caregivers of people with a physical illness. It’s important for caregivers to take care of their own mental health. Take a free, anonymous and confidential screening.
Supporting caregivers with information and resources can help them maintain their mental health and serve loved ones with mental illness better.
Start with these caregiver resources, or view our library of information:Learn More
Clean out your medicine cabinet of any potentially harmful or addictive pills
In partnership with the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office, the Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services (MHARS) Board is promoting Drug Take Back Day on October 24, 2020, in Lorain County, to help keep homes safe from overdose risks.
From 10 am to 2 pm at many drop-off locations, volunteers will provide medication disposal pouches and other drug safety resources for free to residents of Lorain County. Locations include all Lorain County police departments, Sheriff’s Office and Columbia Township Fire Department.
National Prescription Drug Take Back Day addresses a crucial public safety and public health issue. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.9 million Americans misused controlled prescription drugs. The study shows that a majority of abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.
Though police departments and some other locations have secure prescription drug drop boxes all year, by cleaning out your cabinets on National Drug Take Back Day, residents show that Lorain County is taking drug safety seriously.
To learn more about how to help a loved one in active addiction or recovery, visit mharslc.org/recovery. The Addiction Helpline is available at 440-989-4900.
The MHARS Board is the behavioral health authority that plans, funds and monitors mental health and addiction services in Lorain County.Learn More