Recovering as a community: Hancock County, Ohio

September 20, 2017

Maureen Fitzgerald
Communications Coordinator, ATTC Network Coordinating Office
Editor, NIATx 

The Hancock County 3rd Annual March for Recovery
attracted hundreds on  Sept.9  Photo: The Courier  
Hancock County, Ohio, is located on the I-75 corridor, known by some as the "oxy express"-- a pipeline for the opioids that are fueling the state's overdose epidemic.

In spite of that, Hancock County has not been hit as hard as other Ohio counties, ranking 67th of 88 counties in terms of overdose deaths, says Precia Stuby, Executive Director at the Hancock County Alcohol Drug and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board. 

But in 2013, the increasing opioid problem inspired the Board to look for ways to expand services. The Great Lakes ATTC put Stuby in touch with Michael Flaherty, a consultant on Recovery-Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC).

ROSC as a framework 

“He said he’d be willing to help us on one condition,” says Stuby. “And that was that whatever you do, do it within the context of ROSC.”

See Flaherty's related article in the September ATTC Messenger: Recovery-Oriented Systems of Care: It's All About Recovery!

Stuby admits that she was new to the concept. “I was a blank sheet of paper,” she says. “I wasn’t familiar with the science. But since then, I’ve become a true believer.”

Stuby attended a ROSC Training Institute, conducted by Dr. Ijeoma Achara. From this training, Stuby and her team created a ROSC Implementation plan for 2014–2017.

A system transformation

“Everything under ROSC applies under mental health as well as SUD,” says Stuby. “I direct both county systems, so I used Dr. Achara’s training to develop a framework and assessed both our mental health and addiction systems.”
"When we explain that people get treatment at an agency but they recover in the community, the response we hear most often is, 'Tell me what I can do to help.' 

Stuby says Hancock County has been working on doing a total system transformation into a ROSC.

“It has been very intense work because the opioid epidemic has put a real sense of urgency behind it,” she adds. “When we started in 2013, if you had an SUD in our county you could get diagnosed, get treatment, and connect with recovery community and maybe get some case management. Today, in 2017, we have residential treatment, intensive outpatient, medication-assisted treatment, a recovery center, recovery housing, and drug court - a much fuller continuum of care and much broader engagement from the community.”

Finding a role for every sector of the community to play in keeping the community well has been an essential building block of the Hancock County ROSC.

“The reaction from community members has been unbelievable,” says Stuby. “When we explain that people get treatment at an agency, but they recover in the community the response we hear most often is, “Tell me what I can do to help.”

Peers play an important role

Another essential component of the Hancock County ROSC is peer support. “If you listen to people in recovery and take their advice, you can’t go wrong,” says Stuby. “We have paid peer support positions across the Hancock County ADAMHS, and the state of Ohio is now trying to get that covered under Medicaid,” says Stuby.

In addition to paid peer support, the Hancock County ROSC offers a “peer guide” program.

These are people who are in recovery who want to give back,” says Stuby. “They can help someone develop a skill, socialize, etc. but not are not paid to do so.”

Peer guides are one accomplishment of the newly formed Recovery Support Center, Focus on Friends.

“This had served as a drop-in center for people with mental health issues, and we transformed it into a recovery support center for people and families struggling with mental health and SUDs. It offers recreation, 12-step groups, and social skills groups. When it was a drop-in center, it had 100 regular users, and that’s increased to 900 in just one year,” says Stuby. “I believe that every single person who walks in the RSC feels cared for and valued.”

Recovery March 2017 

Focus on Friends also hosted the 3rd Annual Recovery March on September 9, an event that helps unite the Hancock County recovery community. The first event, held in 2015, received SAMHSA’s 2016 Recovery Month Annual Event Award.

The 2017 event attracted more than 200 supporters and kicked off with proclamations from Ohio Governor John Kasich and the city of Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik. Todd Crandell, founder and president of Racing for Recovery, delivered the keynote speech. 

"After sharing his journey of recovery through a multi-faceted approach, Todd spoke about finding your passion, trusting it, and moving forward," says Ellyn Schmiesing, Interim Director of Focus on Friends. " He shared that recovery is all about having a purpose in life. Prevention works, treatment is effective, and people do recover. We are living proof of that fact."

Visit the Focus on Friends Facebook page to see photos from the event.

Shared community values

Stuby is proud of the local agencies who have stepped up to add the needed services and supports. “Implementation of ROSC requires everyone working together.”

For Stuby, the Hancock County ROSC is building a sense of shared community values.

“There is something we can all do to help and it’s as simple as extending the knowledge that you care,” she says. “If your response is one of caring, that is the first step in.”

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