Great Lakes Neighborhood Articles

March 2024

Mental Health Education Initiatives

Tammy Jones is a Family and Consumer Sciences Educator in Pike County, Ohio, based within The Ohio State University Extension System

Although most of the mental health education is provided to youth and parents through education partners, Tammy also works with older adults and has been able to adapt her programming to their needs, integrating activities such as pill disposal opportunities and other activities to help participants manage their health effectively.

Supporting Families Through Active Parenting

One of the most successful programming efforts she’s led with Active Parenting was a women’s residential rehabilitation center that provided supported community housing post incarceration. 

Addressing Vaping and Social Media

The Vaping Diversion program in Pike County, now in its second year, addresses the increase in youth smoking and vaping offenses. Working with schools and juvenile justice partners, Tammy provides monthly 45–50-minute presentations to middle and high school students who have committed first tobacco-related offenses. Utilizing a curriculum from the Stanford Medical Community and inspired by a similar 4-H teen diversion program, the program goal is to help teens learn the dangers of vaping and smoking.

Following the success of the Vaping Diversion program, the juvenile court and education partners enlisted Tammy’s expertise to address concerning trends in juvenile delinquency and social media use. Leveraging her rapport with youth, Tammy introduced the Social Media Diversion program, conducting 45–50-minute open-ended discussions at middle and high schools. This program focuses on addressing social media-related behaviors and offenses, incorporating examples, experiences, and content from relevant literature. While in its first year, the project aims to expand to more districts in its second year.

Tammy’s commitment to education and community well-being makes her a pivotal figure in Pike County, Ohio. By providing engaging and relevant educational initiatives, she addresses immediate concerns and equips community members of all ages with tools they need to thrive and all areas of their lives.

February 2024

Ken Stewart, BA, Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Monroe County, based within The Ohio State University Extension System

Tai Chi for Arthritis is a program that utilizes the Sun Style of tai chi, known for its smooth, flowing movements and gentle postures. It incorporates mindfulness, meditation, and breathwork, aiming to improve balance, posture, and joint strength. The Ohio State University Extension offices support 16 sessions, available 2 times per week for 45 minutes to 1 hour, either virtually or in-person. This program has been successfully delivered to various age groups, including older adults as part of falls prevention programming and younger students in elementary school settings. Despite differing rates of uptake among age groups, instructors find that all participants benefit physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Laughter Therapy, also known as laughter yoga, utilizes humor to relieve pain and stress and improve well-being. It operates within four key domains: general health management, pain management, mental health management, and trauma recovery. The F.I.T. model, which engages participants in goal setting through mental imagery, is employed during sessions lasting 20 to 30 minutes. This program is currently under blind peer review to ensure high quality.

The Silent Disco program in rural Ohio explores the therapeutic potential of music for individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Participants are provided with personalized playlists relevant to their life experiences, aiming to improve mood and social engagement. Although still in its pilot stage, early indications suggest positive outcomes, such as increased social interaction and engagement.

At one Silent Disco site, a family member shared, “Using the headsets brought our family together again. My mother became engaged, and dad was delighted to see her smile once more.” Ken mentioned that the family participated in the music headset program during the recent Christmas holiday. However, it’s important to highlight that the program comes with a significant cost. On average, for just 25 headphones and playlists alone, costs around $3,000. Additionally, the program necessitates an onsite activity director to organize and assist with activities. Home caregiver kits, inclusive of 6 headphones, costs closer to $900.

These innovative programs exemplify The Ohio State University Extension’s commitment to community-based programming and advancing holistic wellness approaches. Through partnerships and ongoing evaluation, they continue to make a positive impact on individuals and communities across Ohio.

October 2023

Harm Reduction Vending Machines in Bois Forte

September 2023

OSU Extension Builds Resilience Pathways in Scioto County

Scioto County Extension staff listed left to right: Grace Peach-Storey – Program Assistant/SNAP-Ed,
Dennis DeCamp, Educator/Family and Consumer Sciences, Abbie Mowen,
Educator/4-H Youth Development, and (not pictured)
Treva Williams, Area Leader & Educator/Family and Consumer Sciences.

The Scioto County Extension team has represented the Ohio Youth Resilience Collaborative (OYRC) through implementation of school and family evidence-based prevention programs. Project partners have been implementing Mind Matters for over four years in one local school and will be expanding to three in the coming years. Mind Matters’ practical hands-on lessons explore the effects of adversity and toxic stress, before moving into activities that facilitate the healing process. Each lesson is based on overcoming adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and includes activities on increasing hope, overcoming adversity, and building resilience. Mind Matters’ lessons address self-soothing and regulating emotions, managing stress effectively, developing empathy and improved personal communications, creating a code of honor and life of intention, building and using a support system.

In addition to this school-based program, Scioto County’s OYRC team offers Active Parenting of Teens to parents and caregivers of teenagers during afterschool hours. Caregiving can be a barrier for participants to attend parenting classes, so Scioto County also offers a 4-H Special Interest Club (SPIN) for youth of various ages. The program initiatives also include a messaging campaign around developing resilience traits at the school and community level. They have hosted annual family nights to ensure families have access to resources for mental health promotion and substance us prevention.

The aim is to provide youth with critical protective factors at the school and community level in order to bolster resilience. Beyond program delivery, developing community assets and resources is integral to building sustainable interventions. Scioto County achieves this by supporting asset building intervention at the individual level through Mind Matters, at the family level through Active Parenting, and at the social-environmental level through a school-and community-wide messaging campaign.

August 2023

Northwoods Coalition (Northern Wisconsin Region)

Formed through a partnership between Marshfield Clinic Health System (MCHS) and several community coalitions in 1995, Northwoods Coalition (NWC) is the largest and oldest network of coalitions dedicated to substance use prevention in Wisconsin. Representatives from coalitions in a 35-county region, including the 11 Wisconsin Tribal Nations, serve on a non-governing advisory board to help shape policies, practices and programs to address public health issues arising from use of alcohol and other drugs.

The Northwoods Coalition produces an informative newsletter every other week, highlighting the latest information in substance use training, updates and tools throughout the state of WI.

Farmer Angel Network (Southern Wisconsin Region)

In the fall of 2018, Sauk County pulled together after a farmer died by suicide. The community reached out to the family to listen as they worked through the emotions that followed. They created a safe space to come together and talk about farm stress and suicide. They brought in speakers and resources. Within months, Farmer Angel Network (FAN) was formed as a result of these efforts. Six years on, Farmer Angel Network continues to build strong rural communities that support agriculture by providing education, resources, and fellowship with a focus on mental health.

This group includes farmers, healthcare workers, veterinarians, Public Health, Land and Water Resources, Extension Educators and Specialists, Church members, HCE members, and many others from the local community. It has grown into surrounding counties, its message reaches across the US, and the group’s message and activities have been broadcasted and filmed by national and international media to draw attention to the world wide mental health crisis in agriculture. Governor Evers met in person with the group, at the chairperson’s farm, early this summer to talk about farm mental health initiates.

June 2023

The Indiana Recovery Network

The Indiana Recovery Network (IRN) is a statewide Recovery Hub in Indiana that aims to bridge gaps in services and ensure that recovery supports and services are accessible to everyone. IRN was created in 2017 through a SAMHSA grant awarded to the Indiana Addictions Issues Coalition (IAIC), a subsidiary of Mental Health America – Indiana.

IRN serves as a statewide network for recovery-related resources and organizations, including Recovery Community Organizations (RCOs). IRN provides information and resources for individuals seeking or in recovery, as well as support for grassroots recovery communities. “Often people new to recovery don’t know where to start when they’re seeking help,” notes Heather Rodriguez, IRN Director. “We created a website to make it easier for people seeking recovery support in Indiana to find out what resources were available.”

Additionally, in April 2020 IRN launched its Regional Recovery Hub program in response to COVID-19 challenges. This program provides peer support, referrals to external organizations, and responds to referrals from corrections. IRN Director Heather Rodriguez explains, “At the time, organizations were closing doors and with reduced capacity, there was a concern that people would lose connection to services. The state came to us to explore what to do to address this need. It was intended to be just a six-month program, but we’re now in our third year and will continue for another year with state funding.”

May 2023

Northern Michigan Substance Abuse Services (NMSAS)

Northern Michigan Substance Abuse Services (NMSAS), is one of a number of programs that Michigan calls neighbor. They do free trainings and presentations for the recovery community and beyond to get more people involved, and to access and share resources with each other. Each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday they also host a Virtually Inspired Recovery series. Tuesday and Thursday is a support group and Wednesdays they bring in a speaker to talk about what they do, as well as learn what other organizations are doing and to make connections. NMSAS hosts a Recovery Coach check-in every other week to support Recovery Coaches and share best practices. They offer a Recovery Messaging Training, Ethics trainings, Advocacy trainings and more.

April 2023

Mission Restart

Cynthia Baade, President of Mission Restart, works to ensure everyone has a place to turn to for support in their journey toward recovery. Baade founded Mission Restart in response to the pandemic-related shutdown of recovery meetings and loss of support for individuals recovering from substance use disorder. According to Baade, many people felt isolated and lacked the support to continue their path toward recovery. “A lot of people were saying that they felt like they didn’t have anybody to reach out to,” says Baade. 

Thanks to C.O.P.E’s provision of over 500 customized cards discussing safe use tips for drugs and highlighting other support and resources in the area, Mission Restart now provides harm reduction information in addition to their weekly meetings, peer recovery services, and 24-hour support line for those in need.

March 2023

The HOPE Alliance

The HOPE Alliance of Monroe County, Ohio is a community coalition with a goal of increasing protective factors against substance use, mental health issues, and suicide. The acronym HOPE stands for “Helping Others through Prevention and Empowerment”.  According to the Ohio Department of Health, 2020 had the highest rate of overdose deaths ever recorded in Ohio. Monroe County is rural with a population of only 13,329 residents; however, the average suicide rate is 18 per 100,000 (compared to 13 per 100,000 for Ohio).

February 2023

Tribal Training and Technical Assistance (TTA)

Wisconsin is one of three states in the Great Lakes region that lives in community with tribal nations. Minnesota and Michigan also engage and build leadership with rural and urban Native American neighbors. These partnerships uphold and protect the traditional values, communities, and families of our First Nations People, as well as the relationships we have as neighbors and communities for many future generations to come.

Approximately 120 bands of Native people have occupied the Great Lakes region over the course of history. There is a trail of historical trauma that our First Nations people face as a collective, through many generations. The effects of the traumas inflicted on groups of people because of their race, creed, and ethnicity can be passed down through generation of descendants. As a result, many people in these same communities experience higher rates of mental and physical illness, substance abuse, and erosion in families and community structures. Persistent cycles of trauma can cause damage to families and communities. Today, 34 diverse, sovereign indigenous nations supporting Native history, artistry and living culture are learning and growing in partnership, often in collaboration with other diverse groups, how to heal through reconnection to cultural practices, family ties and indigenous community bonds. 

Your actions leaves your footprints in the sands of time, for your generations to gain or suffer from.

– Sandra Nseabasi Etim

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