Community Partners Address Opiate Crisis in Richland County

THE RICHLAND COUNTY OPIATE BOARD is a unique broad-based collaboration of people from the treatment, enforcement, and judicial professions. It was formed to develop a proactive response to the Opiate Crisis in Richland County by people who are committed to the reduction of the fatal consequences of opiate abuse through education, response teams, and assistance in finding treatment.  Elaine Surber, Executive Vice President & Director of Substance Use Services at Catalyst Life Services is a member of this board that meets monthly.

The Opiate Response Team:

The Opiate Response Team (ORT) is comprised of a Law Enforcement Officer, a Treatment Professional, and an Addiction Advocate. The typical practice of the ORT will be to gather twice a week to gather all overdose data and coordinate a response to those who have overdosed. Catalyst has many treatment professionals and advocates that are a part of this team.

The ORT will arrive in a marked vehicle and will respect the wishes of the residents; if they do not wish to participate in the visit the ORT will offer to leave information.

If they are permitted to enter the home, the team will discuss the benefits of treatment and attempt to assist them with securing an attainable appointment.

Q&A with Chief Keith Porch, Mansfield Police Department:

What is the role of the police department in the opiate review board?

The role of law enforcement is to be part of the education and prevention process.

Why do you think it is important to have a review board like this?

It brings all agencies to the table who are combating the opiate issue to discuss and develop innovative proactive responses to the population of Richland County along with having a better understanding of the opiate problem through comprehensive information sharing between members of the board.

Have you seen any positive changes since the start of this board?

Through the use of the Quick Response Team which was a proactive initiative, we have noticed a large percentage of persons contacted seeking services for their addiction.

Is there anything personal you would like to add about recovery or this community collaboration?

Richland County’s opiate review board is very unique as it relates to other boards in the State. Our board is comprised of 7 different law enforcement agencies making sure no matter where you live in Richland County resources are available to help the individual overcome addiction.

Q&A with Joseph Trolian, Executive Director of Richland County Mental Health & Recovery Services Board:

What role does the Richland County Mental Health Board play as a member of the Richland County Opiate Board?

We were one of the early planners as the Board was developing. In ORC 340 Boards are required to the be the Opiate Hub of the County, this board meets that requirement. We have used this as a mechanism for planning, implementation and evaluation of various approaches to the Opiate and other drug concerns in Richland County. We have hosted the meeting in our Conference room (Pre-COVID) and now via our GoTo Meeting site. We provide statistic for the Opiate Response Teams and work to coordinate outcomes for Immunities give through the Prosecutors Office.

What successes have come from the Richland County Opiate Board?

One of the most noticeable success has been the Opiate Response Teams. This is a group that is staffed by 5 separate agencies (Catalyst Life Services, Family Life Counseling, Mansfield UMADAOP, Healing Hearts Counseling and Third Street Family Health Services), 4 separate advocacy groups (Fusion Church, Starfish Project, Project One and RU Recovery Ministries), and 3 Law Enforcement Organization (Mansfield Police Department, Shelby Police Department and Richland County Sheriff) with standing teams and a “As Need” schedule with Ontario, Lexington, Belville, Butler and Plymouth. A three person team made up of and agency, advocate and Law Enforcement Officer visit individual’s homes who have overdoses and provide information and encouragement to get help and begin their road to recovery. The teams began running in March of 2017. To date we have reached out nearly 450 individuals. When the team makes contact with a person (could be the individual who overdosed, a family member or a friend) we have seen well over 70% enter treatment.

Another great, but less visible, success is just the collaborations that have been developed as a result of the establishing the Opiate Review Board. We began meeting in August of 2016 on a monthly basis and have continued meeting monthly with few exceptions for the past 4 years. The meeting is one of the most well attended and active that I participate in and I participate in a lot of meetings.

How can this board help an individual struggling with substance use?

We have established a website: where we have a lot of materials that people can access, they can see the latest statistics, find contacts for agencies and advocacy groups and a calendar of events. Kym Lamb and Julie Chaya and Jay Miller with DRM have done a great job of keeping our media presence active.

What is unique about this review board?

As I mentioned earlier, I participate in a lot of meetings. Many groups that have been meeting for 4 years get to the point of meeting just to meet. That is not the case with this group. We always seem to have a new iron in the fire and focusing on an improvement or an enhancement for Richland County.

Is there anything you would personally like to add about recovery?

Recovery is absolutely possible and accessible in this community. We also realize that treatment is process and you may need to try a few different approaches to find the best fit. We can help, we want to help. We will hold the door, but you have to walk through. I have spent my career in both treatment and administration and I believe that what we have established in Richland County is a system that is dynamic, expanding and ready to meet the needs of all Richland County Residents.

Richland County Court Systems Support Recovery

Below you will learn about the different courts and hear from some of the judges and probation officers that help impact the lives of many through these important programs.


Richland County Court of Common Pleas: Felony Drug Court

Drug Court provides non-violent offenders whose criminal behavior arises from addiction with intensive supervision and proven substance abuse treatment programs to help them overcome their addiction. Drug Court protects the public, saves taxpayer dollars when compared to incarceration, and reduces recidivism rates. Drug court participants may enter the program as a diversion in lieu of conviction, while on probation after conviction, or as re-entry into the community following incarceration. The intervention program lasts a minimum of 18 months during which time participants receive intensive supervision from the Richland County Adult Probation Department and the Adult Parole Authority.

Interview with Judge Robinson:

“Drug Court is important because it gives low level felony substance abuse offenders the opportunity to overcome their substance abuse issues to become employed,  to learn how to maintain their sobriety and finally, how to become productive, happy and healthy citizens of this community.  Another important benefit of Drug Court is if the offenders are able to successfully complete the Drug Court program and graduate, their criminal case will be dismissed and the arrest record is sealed. This leaves the graduate free of a felony record.  Also, Drug Court graduates are much less likely to be arrested on new criminal charges then non-graduates.  Finally, Drug Court is important because it reduces overdoses and saves lives.

Drug Court graduation is one of the most satisfying experiences I have ever had as a Judge.  To see a person who once was down and out and struggling with life then, with hard work and dedication over time, they overcome those challenges to become a respectable, responsible and sober person is wonderful.

To see the graduate happy, healthy, and confident brings happiness to me.  To hear the graduate express excitement about their future plans and goals is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever been a part of.” – Judge Robinson


Interview with JJ Bittinger, Chief Probation Officer:

“I have been involved in the Criminal Justice field for over 26 years. During that time I have been involved in uniformed law enforcement, specialty teams on both a state and federal level and for the last 18 years, as a probation officer for the Richland County Court Services. I have found that during my time rising through the ranks in the probation department to my current position as Chief that this part of the criminal justice system allows you the closest, hands on, participation in the changing of someone’s life. I have been through the “lock ’em up” phases and now into the more hands-on “behavioral changes” phase of community corrections. A person has to have a passion for this type of work because it does not come easy. You watch an offender try to change their lives over and over, with no success because they have not totally invested into the changes that need to be made. And rather than give up on these individuals, you continue to work with them, hoping that someday the changes take hold and they truly turn their lives around. When this happens, that is the reward for all of your hard work and dedication to helping others. 

I feel that the treatment and recovery part of changing an offender’s outcome is one of the most important parts of their success. If they are going to change, they need the tools to do it. It needs to be swift. Just as punishment needs to be swift to be effective, so does treatment and recovery. Being able to partner with Catalyst and utilize all of the programs they offer, allows us (Richland County Court Services) to be able to get our offenders the help they need, quickly and efficiently, which will only help in their recovery and treatment. Not every offender has the same needs as the next and being able to rely on our community partners to provide the treatment at the levels needed, is a great resource and contributes to the overall success of the offender and our programs here at the court. Combining all of these resources helps us reach our common goal and that is to increase the safety and security of our community and the residents of Richland County.” – JJ Bittinger

Alyse Schoeder, Catalyst Life Services gives a presentation to the probation officers about the new detox / withdrawal management facility.

Mansfield Municipal Court – Misdemeanor Treatment Court

Treatment Court is a specialty court that helps decrease the cycle and chance of recidivism, promotes treatment, and reduces stigma in regards to substance use. Treatment Court is beneficial because it  links individuals to needed treatment services instead of serving time in jail and can assist in promoting an individual out of the justice system and into a life of recovery. Participants currently meet twice a month with the Judge, have scheduled office visits with their probation officer, submit to random drug tests, and attend regular treatment sessions as recommended from their assessment.

Interview with Judge Ault

“I feel treatment court is essential for a number of reasons. Communication between the court, probation officers, and the treatment providers keeps everyone up to date on the progress of the people in treatment court, so that non-compliance can be addressed swiftly if necessary. Studies have shown this process will have much better outcomes than incarceration alone. It’s getting to the root of the problem, which is more effective. Treatment court holds all to a very high standard and provides more structure over all, which is beneficial for accountability and success in changing behaviors. Treatment court reduces recidivism, which not only helps the individual, but our community as a whole.

I believe recovery is a journey that encompasses a person’s whole life. Recovery is to attain and continue to live a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically” – Judge Ault


Interview with Taylor Godfrey & Lindsey Barth, Probation Officers:

“We enjoy making a difference in the lives of those who are struggling with addiction while involved in the criminal justice system.  It is a great feeling to see defendants who entered the system addicted, homeless, unemployed, and lost custody of their children transform into productive members of the community who have now obtained employment, obtained housing, are succeeding in their recovery, and regaining custody of their children.

Drug Courts increase accountability for defendants. We focus on the treatment and rehabilitation needs of each defendant while ensuring public safety and reducing recidivism. We work closely with treatment providers to develop the best plan of action for each person. Treatment plans are individualized; what works for one person, may not work for another.

When a defendant graduates the program or even when they opt to sit their jail time, we encourage them to reach out for help if they are ever struggling. I have had many defendants reach out for help, which allowed us to connect them with services before they entered the criminal judges system again.” – Taylor Godfrey & Lindsey Barth

Deanna Roberts, Catalyst Life Services with probation officers from the Mansfield Municipal Court.

Temporary On-Site Hours

Due to the increase of telehealth services we will be reducing our lobby/front door hours.  Our temporary on-site hours due to COVID-19:

Rehab Center Location (270 Sterkel Blvd.):

  • 7am to 6pm Mon., Wed., Thurs.    
  • 7am to 5pm Tues.    
  • 7am to 3pm Fri.  

Center Location (741 Scholl Road):

  • 7am to 4pm Mon.
  • 7am to 5pm  Tues.
  • 7am to 5:30pm Wed.  
  • 7am to 5pm Thurs.
  • 7am to 3pm. Fri

Taking these social distancing measures can help stop or slow down the spread of this virus. 

For more information regarding precautions Catalyst is taking; please visit our COVID-19 Information Page here:

A Letter from the CEO: Stay At Home Order & What This Means to Catalyst Life Services

Good Evening,

I am sure many of you were tuned in this afternoon, to Governor Mike DeWine’s COVID-19 update press conference. We learned in the press conference that a “Stay At Home Order”, has been put in place for the state of Ohio. Amy Acton, MD, MPH, Director of the Ohio Department of Health, has ordered that all persons stay at home unless engaged in essential work activity. I anticipate that there will be many questions as to what this means for the employees at Catalyst Life Services and our operations.

Per the Director’s Stay At Home order, Catalyst Life Services, a Behavioral Health Care Provider, is considered an Essential Business. This is defined by the majority of services provided at Catalyst Life Services. We will be reviewing the order closely and getting more guidance on some services and operations that need more clarity. The order states “Essential Businesses are encouraged to remain open.”

In response to this pandemic, new emergency rules have given us the ability to provide many services through telehealth. The goal is to keep individuals home and to practice social distancing. While our doors will remain open, telehealth should be our preferred method of treatment. A week and half ago, several staff who had the ability to work remotely, were instructed to do so. As the telehealth options became available at the end of last week, we will be assessing the possibility for more individuals working remotely. Our goal is to allow those who have the ability to work remotely, successfully and productively, to move in this direction.

As an Essential Business, our doors will remain open. We will still be here to provide very needed and important services to our consumers. For a variety of reasons, telehealth will not always be an option. We also have staff at the agency that may not have the ability to work from home, based on the duties of their position. This is why it is critical that we are following all CDC recommendations. We will practice Social Distancing and strong hand washing measures. We will stay home if we are ill, and have any signs or symptoms of COVID-19. We will be encouraging and supportive of our co-workers who need to stay home. We will avoid group gatherings, in which we don’t have ability to be 6 feet apart. We are completing screenings, and temperature checks on all staff and consumers. We will continue to do this.

I am truly grateful to all the staff at Catalyst Life Services. This is a time of uncertainty and fear and I am amazed watching so many pull together, and do what we do best. Take care of the people we serve and each other.

” Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

With gratitude,

Laura Montgomery, President & CEO

Important Information Regarding COVID-19

If you have an appointment and are showing any symptoms (fever, cough, or shortness of breath) please call us ahead of time. This will help us take steps to keep others from getting infected or exposed. 419-522-4357

Catalyst is taking strong proactive steps and precautions to protect our clients and staff in our facilities and to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19. As the concern of COVID-19 continues to increase it is important that we are heeding warnings from Public Health Officials, Ohio State Officials, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Catalyst is now offering Telehealth services.  Please talk to your provider about this option.
  • Transportation: We are taking measures to screen clients that are transported by our staff . Thermometers will be supplied for all vehicles transporting clients to take their temperature and a screening questionnaire will be done prior to transporting anyone.
  • Home Visits: We are encouraging alternative measures for home visits and other ways to provide services. Our staff is still permitted to go to the door / front porch and have communication with our clients that we need to see physically but we are recommending over the phone communication or for clients to come into our offices where we can better control the environment.
  • All Agency Facilities: In order to help keep our clients, everyone at Catalyst, and our community healthy, we will be screening clients, staff, and visitors by asking a few questions, checking temperature, and requesting you use hand sanitizer before you enter our buildings.
  • Residential Facilities: We have implemented additional procedures at our residential facilities to protect our clients receiving 24-hour care.
  • We have added additional cleaning processes at all of our locations, hand sanitizer, and ongoing patient education.  
  • In an effort to take increased sanitation measures and avoid café style lines, our cafeteria will only be serving sacked lunches to our residential consumers and staff.
  • Non-essential work travel (conferences and trainings) will be on hold until April 4th.
  • We are currently evaluating staff that have the ability to work remotely and making that recommendation as necessary.
  • The Mansfield News Journal All Star Basketball Classic has been cancelled.
  • We cannot approve requests to outside agencies to use our facilities for group meetings at this time.

Due to the increase of telehealth services we will be reducing our lobby/front door hours.  Our temporary on-site hours due to COVID-19.

Rehab Center Location (270 Sterkel Blvd.):

  • 7am to 6pm Mon., Wed., Thurs.    
  • 7am to 5pm Tues.    
  • 7am to 3pm Fri.  

Center Location (741 Scholl Road):

  • 7am to 4pm Mon.
  • 7am to 5pm  Tues.
  • 7am to 5:30pm Wed.  
  • 7am to 5pm Thurs.
  • 7am to 3pm. Fri

Taking these social distancing measures can help stop or slow down the spread of this virus. We are talking with other organizations and discussing strategies to keep our workforce and consumers healthy, while operations continue. 

As the Coronavirus spreads, the CDC urges sick workers to stay home. Public health experts believe, COVID-19 spreads primarily through droplets produced by a sick person’s cough or sneeze.

Pertinent information will be shared and updated continuously. For additional questions regarding COVID–19, you can contact the Ohio Department of Health at 833-427-5634. 

MENTAL HEALTH HELP: For those who are feeling isolated while having to maintain social distancing for COVID-19 precautions, here are some resources to help you:

Catalyst Crisis Helpline: 419-522-HELP (4357)

Warm-line (A non-crisis support line for peers): 419.522.5300

Ohio Crisis Text Line: Text keyword “4HOPE” to 741 741

Interview with Catalyst Life Services Executive Director, Erin Schaefer Regarding Mental Health and Depression

Listen to Catalyst Life Services Erin Schaefer discuss mental health and depression with Charles Robinson, Program Director of iHeartMedia who shares his own diagnosis in this interview:

Erin Schaefer, LPCC-S, IMFT-S, is the Executive Vice President/Executive Director at Catalyst Life Services.  She received a masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pacific Lutheran University in 1997 and a masters in Marriage and Family Therapy/Counseling in 2002 from the University of Akron.  Erin has worked in community mental health for over 20 years.  She was also director of Ashland Parenting Plus, a small nonprofit agency focused on teen pregnancy prevention, juvenile diversion, and parent education.  She served on the board and as president of the Ohio Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and also on the board of directors of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy from 2011-2013; she currently Treasurer-Elect, starting her term in Jan. 2020.  She has been a member of AAMFT since 1997 and is a Clinical Fellow.

Progress Industries Annual Business Appreciation Breakfast

Catalyst Life Services is giving thanks to its business partners who employ participants of the CCMEP (Comprehensive Case Management Employment Program) and Success Unlimited programs. The businesses contracting with these programs were recognized at Catalyst’s annual Business Appreciation Breakfast on Wednesday September 25 in the lower level of Catalyst’s Rehab Center.

Across its various programs and partnerships, Catalyst serves approximately 300 youth and adult participants in as many as 80 paid work sites at any given time, with peak numbers seen in the summer while school is not in session.

These programs assist individuals with barriers to their employment and educational goals to gain experience in their desired employment sector. These individuals start at out at entry-level positions and receive on the job training and mentorship from their worksite supervisors and support from their employment specialists to ensure long-term participant success.

Program Director, Mitch Jacobsen, stated, “This breakfast serves a dual purpose for these programs, as we have the opportunity to give thanks to our business partners and further spread the message of our successes from the participant perspective.”

One such success is Coryanna Fraley, a self-described single mother who arrived in need of assistance and who has leveraged that into her status as a full time college student and part-time employee at Parent Aide through this program.

“Coryanna is what this program is all about” said Jacobsen, “She embodies what we would like to see from all of our participants and we couldn’t be more proud of her accomplishments.”

While the program has nearly doubled in size from the previous year, Catalyst is excited for what’s to come over the next year, and looks forward to the opportunity to engage even more businesses in the future.

For more coverage on this event, please visit:

For more information about these programs and how to partner, visit

Catalyst Continues to Grow: First Richland County detox center, second residential treatment facility to open this fall.

The Richland County Mental Health & Recovery Services Board selected Catalyst Life Services to be the service provider for two new facilities this fall: a withdrawal management detox facility and a second New Beginnings residential alcohol and drug treatment facility.

The addition of a second New Beginnings treatment facility will allow gender-specific housing and separate buildings for men and women. The withdrawal management facility, or detox center, is the first of its kind for this community and for Catalyst.

“We believe a big barrier in this community addressing the opiate and drug epidemic is not having a detox center,” said Melissa Drozda, the Marketing & Development Director at Catalyst. “Individuals might have to travel as far as Columbus. That leaves a huge gap in the services in Richland and the surrounding counties.”

This lack of withdrawal management services in this area presents numerous problems.

“If people even have the necessary transportation to go out of town to safely detox, many of the facilities are completely full,” said Elaine Surber, Associate Director of New Beginnings Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services at Catalyst. “The window of opportunity for someone suffering from addiction is so narrow. Having a facility available right here in Richland County when the people need it will save lives.”

The Rotary Club of Mansfield has made a $35,000 contribution to the fundraising efforts of this project.

“The club’s 100th anniversary will be February of 2020,” explained Melanie Riggleman, a board member of Catalyst and Rotary Club member. “We wanted to celebrate our centennial by making a large donation to a project for the betterment of the community.”

The Rotary Club invited members to nominate projects they are passionate about. In total, there were eight projects submitted. Presentations were made by the eight organizations, and Rotary Club members voted for the project they most wanted to support. Catalyst came out on top.

“The club members agreed this project is well worthwhile for the community,” said Riggleman. “Everybody knows somebody that’s been touched by this epidemic in some way. We all have to group together as a community and do what we can to try to stop it.”

Riggleman championed the proposal to the Rotary Club because she is passionate about the work Catalyst does.

“There are so many people affected by addiction; it’s not only the person with the disease,” she said. “It’s their families, their children…It breaks my heart to see what’s happening in our community. These people need help. The goal is to help people know that there is someplace safe to go, and that will be the withdrawal management center.”

What makes Catalyst unique is that they do not only offer addiction services for withdrawal management (detox), residential (inpatient), and outpatient services. In addition to a stabilization unit, they also offer mental health, crisis, and vocational services to help treat the individual and become successful at any point in their recovery journey.

Elaine Surber, Associate Director of New Beginnings Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services, explained the differences in some of these services, and new services that the withdrawal management detox center will offer.

“We currently help people safely withdraw in the crisis stabilization unit. However, if someone needs a more intensive level of care and supervision, we have to send them to a hospital.

With the new withdrawal management detox center, we will have a full staff of doctors, nurses, and therapists 24 hours a day to safely and effectively supervise someone who is going through the process of withdrawal right here onsite, which usually lasts 3-7 days.”

After this center opens, Catalyst’s goal is to reduce the number of people they send to a hospital setting because they will now be able to supervise the withdrawal process at any stage for any adult.

The center will have 16 beds. Catalyst expects to see people from self referrals and court referrals at first, and they hope to eventually have emergency departments and physicians refer individuals in need to the withdrawal management center as well.

Catalyst withdrawal management detox center room

“The goal is to reduce the use of emergency rooms, reduce the use of EMT and police force, and to keep people out of jail,” said Surber. “Incarceration is expensive, and it’s much more effective to provide people with treatment. People become more productive citizens when they recover. This is part of our holistic approach: by treating the individual, that in turn gives to the whole community.”

This is part of a circular process in the community. By opening a new residential facility and detox center, Catalyst hopes to help individuals who will, in turn, give back and help their community when they recover. This project will also help the community with the creation of 47 jobs in Richland County.

“This epidemic has held back our community’s ability to grow,” said Drozda. “Having these buildings is an important step in that growth process. Addiction touches everyone, and when we heal individuals, we heal the whole community.”

The Catalyst team hopes to open the New Beginnings facility in September and the withdrawal management detox center in October. The buildings are almost completed, but they need furnishing and final touches before they are ready to be fully operational.

Catalyst kitchen

“Funding has been secured for the buildings’ construction. But buildings alone don’t make for a transformational experience and aren’t enough to open a facility”, said Drozda.

Cataylst construction

Before the facilities are ready to operate, Catalyst needs to raise an additional $200,000. This $200,000 will get the buildings up and running and will not go toward any salaries or administrative fees.

“Yes, we need money to complete this project and get these buildings operational. But, ultimately, the donations really go toward being able to provide services the community doesn’t have,” said Drozda.

“The hope is that having a place for people to safely withdraw will prevent overdoses and deaths in our community,” said Surber. “People suffering from addiction will have somewhere safe to go. We can help them.”

To donate now, click this link: If you have questions about the donation process or want to know more about the project, contact Drozda at or at 419-774-6710.