Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

Agency eyes substance-abuse effort

County nabs $209K state grant

By William Kincaid
CELINA - Mercer County Job and Family Services Director Angela Nickell has high hopes for a new substance-abuse program her office plans to launch in 2019 with help from a sizable state grant.
MCJFS social service administrator Jason Cupp snagged a $209,333 grant as part of being accepted into the expanded Ohio Sobriety Treatment And Reducing Trauma pilot program that will pair families struggling with drug issues with people who have been in their shoes, recovering substance abusers.
The START program will assist the agency by providing additional money and support for preventive work with children and families affected by substance abuse.
Created through the office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, START was designed to help ensure children's safety and well being, address parent and child trauma and help parents achieve and maintain sobriety.
The grant requires a 25 percent local match of $42,333, Nickell said while discussing the agency's proposed 2019 budget with county commissioners. Nickell requested $25,000 from the county's general fund, which pays for day-to-day operations, just in case the agency needs the extra money to meet the match obligation.
"Now this project ends at the end of September, so I don't know that we will even have opportunity to exhaust those funds or even need that much of a match," she said. "We kind of like that reserve because we've never done this grant before. We don't know what it's going to entail. We know that we have to hire family mentors, and that's really the significance of this program is it is much more in-house."
Through the program, MCJFS will be able to hire a full-time caseworker and up to two part-time family peer mentors to work exclusively and intensively with families affected by substance abuse, according to a county news release.
Both workers will assist families by removing barriers to mental health and substance-abuse treatment, increasing parenting skills, enhancing employment skills, supporting extended-family supports and helping refer to other needed community resources, the release stated.  An experienced caseworker will fill that position, Cupp told the newspaper last month. For the two part-time positions, MCJFS is looking for people who have been in recovery from substance abuse for at least five years or have had past cases with children services who would be willing to help families navigate through their services, he said.
"We have identified several local people who may be able to serve as family mentors for our families through this STAR program," Nickell told commissioners.
She said the program aims to keep families together "by bringing in people who've been there and have successfully recovered from addiction, have successfully followed all the steps to keep their children back in their homes or reunified."
"We are hiring them to bring them in to work with the families directly," she said. "None of us in this room, I don't believe, have ever been in the unfortunate situation that some of these families, in particular the children, have found themselves in, so one of the catalysts of this program is to get someone they can relate with."
Nickell said she hopes funding remains in place for the program in the future.
"With Michael DeWine being elected governor and this was sort of his brainchild, we're kind of hoping that there's some influence then to continue it," she pointed out. "The state of Kentucky has utilized this and saw a significant drop in their (child) placement costs, and some of the other … pilot counties of Ohio have reported the same."
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