Making The Holiday Season Inclusive

The holiday season is a wonderful time of family gatherings, parties, and programs. However, this time can be frustrating and even lonely for individuals with a hearing loss. Here are a few tips to help make the loveliest time of year inclusive for all. If you are able to gather safely with family who have a hearing loss, please remember these tips:

  • Maintain social distancing
  • Don’t cover up your month, use a clear face mask or shield so your mouth can be seen
  • Get someone’s attention before trying to talk to them
  • Make sure to be clear about the topic of the conversation before talking about the topic
  • Maintain eye contact throughout the conversation
  • Make sure to face the individual the entire conversation, don’t turn your face away when talking
  • Be sure to not cover your mouth with your hands, coffee mug, etc.
  • Avoid over exaggerating your mouth when you speak – this will make it more challenging to understand what you are saying
  • Speak naturally – there is no need to yell because that just changes your mouth movements and therefore makes it harder to understand
  • If the individual doesn’t understand what you said: don’t become frustrated or angry, don’t just brush it off by saying something like “never mind”, and don’t isolate the individual from future conversations. Instead, rephrase what you said to allow for another chance for understanding.
  • Be sure to converse away from background noise
  • Be sure to converse in an area with good lighting so your face can be seen

Tanya Haga is the Director of Deaf Services and has worked at Catalyst Life Services since 2014 in this role. She has a Bachelor’s of Arts in American Sign Language Interpreting, a Master’s of Education and Master’s in Business Administration. She is also nationally certified by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Tanya’s responsibilities include management and oversight of interpreting, captioning, case management for clients with a hearing loss, sign language classes, summer youth program, and contract and grant projects.

Staying Mentally Healthy During the Holidays

“Have yourself a Merry little Christmas, let your heart be light….”

A beloved holiday classic, this song can conjure up all kinds of positive memories of Christmases past.  Indeed, the holiday season is often full of warm memories, family gatherings, work parties, and general positive cheer.

However, the holidays are not festive and cheery for all.  For some, they represent painful memories or reminders of loved ones no longer here.  For still others, the holidays represent added stress of more to do, more money to spend when there is no “extra” money, and more activities added to an already stressful schedule.

So how can one maintain good mental health during this “most wonderful time of the year”?  Here are some tips for managing stress and dealing with depressive/anxiety symptoms during this time:

  1. Remember the word “No.” Only you know when it is too much for you.  Taking care of yourself means setting limits and sticking to them.  When you feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to step back and take a break.
  2. Be patient and gentle with yourself. Memories can be painful, and simple things can trigger memories when you least expect it.  A song, a smell, a phrase, or a sound can all be significant reminders.  When this happens, be gentle with yourself, embrace the significance of the moment, and allow yourself to feel whatever emotions it brings.
  3. Maintain a routine. One of the things the holidays can bring is chaos and craziness.  Maintaining as much of the normal routine as possible can help minimize the impact of the disruptions.  Routine stabilizes mind, body, and spirit as it grounds a person in what is known in the midst of the unknown.
  4. Limit alcohol use. When stressed, it is tempting to use alcohol as a coping mechanism.  However, alcohol use can lead to alcohol abuse and subsequent poor decision-making.  In addition, alcohol is a depressant and often leads to increased feelings of depression and sadness after significant use.  Limiting use to one or two drinks helps a person to maintain control and avoid complications normally associated with heavy use.
  5. Seek comfort from those who support you. There are those within our daily lives who provide emotional support and assistance.  Reach out to those you know you can count on, and let them know when you feel overwhelmed.  Asking for help allows others to know specifically what they can do to support you.
  6. Develop a budget. Knowing how much you have to spend for gifts for family, friends, and coworkers allows you to manage expenses.  This can also keep you from getting overwhelmed with surprise bills come January. If money is tight, get creative; make your own gifts or agree to spend time together instead of buying gifts. You make your own rules.
  7. Find time for rest and relaxation. Even in the midst of hustle and bustle, it is important to take time to catch your breath.  When feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take a break by doing things you enjoy, such as watching a movie, exercising, hanging out with friends, or reading.  Taking some downtime helps you recharge and rejuvenate yourself before the next set of activities.

If you find yourself having serious difficulties during or continuing to struggle beyond the holidays, there is help available.  Catalyst Life Services has a wide array of services available to address mental health, drug & alcohol, vocational, and many other issues.

Call Helpline at 419-522-HELP (419-522-4357) for information.  Contact us; we can help!

Erin Schaefer, IMFT-S, LPCC-S is the 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 has been a member of AAMFT since 1997 and is a Clinical Fellow

October News

Did you know?

Our Vocational Program has been providing assistance to those with barriers to employment for 53 years. Progress Industries offers many opportunities to those searching for employment who might have a barrier limiting them to accessing a job otherwise. 

Mitch shares about the Vocational Department and the 4 main services that are offered. Over the past several decades, the vocational department has adapted and grown to serve the needs of our clients.

Click the image above to watch!

Click here to view the 4 main categories of services the Print & Embroidery Shop provides and learn how your purchase can impact the community. 

Q1: What is your role at Catalyst Life Services and how long have you worked at Catalyst?

I am the Assistant Director of Vocational Services and have been in this position for about four years. In this role, I oversee the vocational programs assisting individuals with job placement services. I started as an employment specialist in 2015 working on the WIOA grant helping transitional aged youth with overcoming barriers to their employment and educational goals.

Q2: What might a ‘typical day’ look like to you?

Every day is very different. I do a lot of problem solving with my staff when a particularly difficult client situation comes up. Right now, we are into our annual audit preparation phase, which means that I am spending a lot of my time reviewing closed cases and validating performance measure data.

Q3: What do you like most about your job?

Client successes! I love being able to share in our client’s success and seeing their joy. I also love developing new programs to meet the needs of our clients. We have amazing community partnerships and I love being able to collaborate together with our fellow service providers and business representatives.

Q4: What do you think most people do not know about Vocational Services?

The programs have grown so much recently that it’s hard to keep track of all of the new and exciting things we have going on. Check back with us frequently as things are constantly moving and adapting to the needs of our clients. The workforce development industry is in a very unique state right now and we have a number of exciting developments on the horizon.

Q5: Anything else you would like to add?

If you have someone who is thinking about work, but isn’t quite sure yet, PLEASE send us a referral. A trained employment specialist will guide your client through the process and explain the benefits to working with us and the opportunities available.

You can fill out a referral form here.

Meet the WIOA Team

What do you like best about being an Employment Specialist?

“I like meeting with the families first. I get a better understanding of what the clients barriers may be and see what can be done to help overcome those barriers. Building relationships is the most important part of the job. I am the first person to meet with the families, so I give them the understanding of how the program works and how as a team we can best help the client. The best part of the job is seeing the change, successes and milestones the clients have achieved from our first meeting.” 
– Bob Nelson, CCME Coordinator

“I love helping others, it has always been a passion of mine.  I love giving individuals the resources and drive to reach their full potential.  A lot of times, others cannot see what you see, so helping others to open their eyes to their own potential is magical.  There isn’t anything better than seeing others succeed and knowing that you had a hand in someone’s success.  This is why I am a social worker and why I was continue to help others every day.” 
– Casey Gowitzka, Lead Employment Specialist

“What I love most about being an Employment Specialist is being able to support my clients through the journey of 
preparing for their future. I enjoy being able to set goals with clients, at the beginning stages, then being able to support 
the client while they work through the steps to achieve that goal.” 
– Chelsea Loveland, Employment Specialist

“My favorite thing about my job and this program is seeing my clients succeed. No matter what they want to do I am there to support them in whatever way possible to help them get to where they want to be and to see them achieve that goal after all the hard work they put in is the absolute best. Whether it is someone who just wants to get their first job and then 
seeing the excitement they get when they receive their first check realizing that they just worked and earned their own money.. I love it. Showing youth and young adults that no dream/goal is too large and anything can be achieved.”
 – Taylor Salisbury, Employment Specialist

“I have always been passionate about working with youth.  I am so proud of my clients when they work so hard to achieve their goals.” 
– Stephanie Little, Employment Specialist

“What I enjoy most about being an employment specialist is watching my clients achieve their goals.  It’s very 
rewarding to be able to help them identify their strengths and provide them with the support and 
encouragement they need to be successful.” 
– Brittany Moyer, Employment Specialist

“I love showing my clients that no matter our circumstances, success is always possible if we are willing to work hard, 
embrace change, and learn from our mistakes.” 
– Michelle Gower, Employment Specialist

Community Support

Thank you to the United Way of North Central Ohio serving Crawford, Marion, & Wyandot Counties for awarding us a grant of $1,000 to Catalyst Life Services for the Deaf Services Program!

Eat for the Cause!

Mark your calendar for Friday, November 6th!

By eating at Panda Express, you can support our cause!
Simply show them a virtual or paper copy of the flyer below, and Catalyst will receive 20% of the proceeds! 

Mark your Calendars!

Richland Gives is a time of community collaboration as individuals and businesses come together to support the mission and work of Richland County non-profits. 

Your financial gift can have double the impact! if we are one of the first 15 non-profits to raise $1,000, we will receive a matching grant of $1,000. Giving begins on November 16th.

Embroidery & Print Shop

Progress Industries meets embroidery and print shop needs for companies in a variety of ways. Below you can see 4 main categories of services: uniforms, employee gifts, signs and promotional items. Progress Industries creates professional products that meets the needs of the client and also impacts the community. When a product is purchased from Progress Industries, work is created for Catalyst clients who find enrichment, pride and fulfillment through their work in the Embroidery and Print Shop.


From print screening to embroidery, uniforms can be custom made to fit your needs. Click here to look through our catalog.

The Print & Embroidery Shop at Catalyst is Nanogate’s go to place to order apparel for our employees. It’s nice to have a place where we can order items and get them embroidered with our Logo and at a reasonable price. The employees in the Embroidery Department are friendly, efficient, and very helpful. I would highly recommend The Center for your one-stop shop for apparel and embroidery.

– Karen Hagerman, Executive Assistant

Nanogate North America, LLC

Employee Gifts

Are you an employer looking for a creative idea for employee appreciation or holiday gifts? Give us a call at 419-774-2267 and we can talk through the options.

“Over the years, Progress Industries have provided high quality, custom fleece jackets that we give to our employees for years of service awards.  We have also used their services for custom t-shirts.  They have been very easy to work with and have a variety of products to choose from. Having a local contact to work with has been wonderful!

– Angie Myers

Administrative Assistant to the Vice President

Jay Industries Incorporated


Printed signage is available for special events, personal and promotional needs and commercial and public displays.

Progress Industries is by far the most reliable and consistent company for your printing needs. Ms. Laura and her staff do an amazing job communicating before, during, and after each print job is complete. They are always on time, and the quality is second to none. Five Stars. 10/10. National Championship Service!

– Roy W. Hall, Executive Director

Driven Foundation & Former Ohio State & NFL Receiver

Promotional Items

Promotional items are an incredible way to create or continue brand awareness. There are unlimited items to create with your own signature look.

“I have been purchasing merchandise and point-of-sale for the Ohio Lottery for 20 years.  In that time, Progress Industries has proved that they are committed to providing efficient, creative printing and embroidery services for their customers.  The quality branding on our products and point-of-sale is impressive, customer support is on point, timelines are met, pricing is reasonable, and the quality control aspect for each order eases my mind.  I recommend Progress Industries as a vendor, and enjoy my working relationship with them.

– Irene Pagonis, Purchasing Agent

Ohio Lottery

Give us a call at 419-774-2267 or email Laura Zimmer, Embroidery & Print Supervisor, at

View our catalog for apparel here.

You can view our pen catalog here.

Recovery & Suicide Awareness Month, Wk. 4

Did you know?

Last year, approximately 2,089 individuals were receiving treatment in Richland County for an Opiate Disorder.

The Richland County Opiate Board was formed to develop a proactive response to the Opiate Crisis in Richland County by reducing the fatal consequences of opiate abuse through education, response teams, and assistance in finding treatment.

Click below to read about this task force and the collaboration of 5 separate agencies, 3 Law Enforcement Agencies and other Departments that are a part of this Board as needed.

Agents of Change: Virtual Recovery Run

Recovery Run Update!

We are so grateful to the community as they participated in this month’s Virtual Recovery Run. Today, we announced our current monies raised, weekly winners and the 1st and 2nd place winners of the 5k. To learn more go to our Facebook Live recording here and click the image above to view photos of all Recovery Run participants thus far.

We are excited to announce we have extended the Recovery Run to October 14th due to many individuals who still wished to participate. To hear from several individuals and teams who participated in the Recovery Run click here to read the Richland Source article.

Click the image above for the Voices for Recovery video featuring our Substance Use Treatment Professionals. 

These amazing individuals work hard to promote recovery, inspiration and hope!!

Q1: What is your title and how long have you worked at Catalyst? 

I am the Executive Vice President/Director of Substance Use Services. I’ve been employed with Catalyst since December 2010.

 Q2: Why do you have a passion for helping those who struggle with substance use/addiction and mental health issues? 

 My professional career for over 35 years has been focused on helping people to explore their potential.  The adolescents and adults I’ve had the privilege to serve didn’t set out to purposefully disrupt their lives, the lives of people they love, or give up on their hopes and dreams.  My passion for helping others comes from a place of empathy, acceptance, and caring as people develop the strength to become the best possible version of themselves. 

Q3: In a few sentences, can you share how Catalyst can help someone who struggles with substance use? 

Sometimes when people lose hope, it becomes very difficult to know where to turn for help.  Making a phone call to our 24 Helpline at 419-522-HELP (4357) begins the process.  Each person meets with a therapist to develop their personalized treatment plan.  We offer a full continuum of care.  We provide withdrawal management services, stabilization services, residential, individual and group counseling, medical services, case management, peer support, vocational and access to housing.  The Catalyst safety net can provide a high level of structure to minimize mental health issues, environmental triggers, and reduce or eliminate contact with drugs and alcohol.  At Catalyst, we treat each individual with respect and dignity. 

Q4: What is something about addiction/substance use that you think many people don’t know? 

We know that trauma can be a contributing risk factor in the development of a substance use disorder.  Many individuals with substance use disorders use alcohol and other drugs to self-soothe and help decrease symptoms of anxiety, guilt, shame, fear, irritability, anger, insomnia, depression, loss of appetite, and inability to concentrate.  Access to treatment programs, medications, 12-Step and faith based programs, and other treatment options give people choice in how they want to pursue their recovery.  What I want people to know is that so many people take dramatic steps to turn their life around and become active participants in their personal change process.  Seeing people discover their true potential is beautiful.  

Q5: What does the word, “Recovery” mean to you? 

Recovery is an individual journey. Each person defines what recovery means to them by exploring their desires, values, family situations, social circumstances and lifestyles.Life in recovery is about more than just avoiding drugs and alcohol for the rest of your life. The journey is an ongoing process of growth and healing that is physical, mental, and spiritual.     

Q6: What would you say to encourage someone or a family member who is struggling with substance use? 

Helping a friend or loved one struggling with addiction can sometimes become a long and heartbreaking journey. There may be times it feels extremely overwhelming and ignoring the situation seems like a good solution.  However, sweeping the issue under the rug can be damaging to you, your family and the person you’re concerned about. As painful as it may be, it’s important that you take the time to encourage your loved one to seek assistance.  Please remember, addiction is not a personal failure.  Don’t give up; there is hope; get the help you deserve!

Recovery is Beautiful

 If you knew Nicole a year and a half ago, you may not recognize the happy, vibrant, mother of two today. She used to be in a dark place, struggling with addiction and stuck in a vicious cycle. Today – she is happy and loving life.

    Nicole Shepherd shares her darkest moment in life on March 30th, 2019 when she overdosed. Thankfully, after she was checked out by hospital staff, she was stabilized and able to recover. However, the day had more unexpected news for Nicole as the doctor told her she was pregnant. Nicole was then rushed to Akron hospital to make sure the baby was unharmed. A short while later, she and the baby were given a clean bill of health and Nicole became a resident at New Beginning’s at Catalyst Life Services.

    At that time, New Beginnings was a 16 bed residential unit for both men and women who were struggling with substance use. As a resident of New Beginnings, Nicole was surrounded by all the services that was needed on her road to recovery. This included all services related to the mind, body and spirit.

    Nicole stayed at New Beginnings for 6 months. While she was there she went to counseling, attended group therapy and learned the skills she needed to make sure she was set up for success. Catalyst also helped her to prepare for the baby that was soon coming. They made sure she would have all she needed when the baby arrived. 

    “I had been to Catalyst before in 2018. I was at the stabilization unit for 21 days to detox. But then I just went back to my old friends and situation and relapsed 8 months later,” Nicole says. “This time I changed everything when I got home. It’s a lot of sacrifices to leave friends but it’s so worth it because now I am not just existing – I am living.”

    Nicole is now home and her baby girl is around 1 years old. She is healthy and beautiful and Nicole shares how much she loves being a stay-at-home mom. She also babysits and loves how much her life has turned around in just one and a half years. 

    “An addiction feels like a dark place where you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I used to be miserable. I hated myself and hated where I was,” Nicole shares. “But now I am so very happy and I love life. That’s something I thought I never could have.”

    Nicole is now in a good place to share her story and to encourage others in recovery to get the help they need to have the life they want. She shares that she has already encouraged a friend and guided her toward the resources and help she needed. It is hard to imagine what struggling with substance use is really like, unless you have experienced it yourself. Nicole hopes to one day be able to take her experiences and use them at Catalyst by working to help others on their own road to recovery.  

Suicide Prevention Awareness

Did you know?

Law Enforcement is usually the first ones to respond and engage a person in crisis.

Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training helps to educate and equip Law Enforcement and First Responders to effectively approach mental health crises, emphasizes consumer and officer safety and helps to build and foster relationships between mental health agencies, law enforcement and individuals and families affected by mental illness. 

Click below to read about CIT and the collaboration between agencies such as NAMI Richland County, the Sheriff’s Department and Catalyst Life Services.

Q1: What is your role at Catalyst and how long have you been here? 

I am an LPN at our new Detox Facility and this Month is my one year Anniversary! 

Q2: In a few sentences, can you explain what your role at Catalyst looks like? 

My role at Withdrawal Management is hard to explain in a few sentences, but I help with the admission process of new clients, I obtain their vitals, medical and physical histories along with their substance use and work closely with our doctors so that our clients can get through the withdrawal process more comfortably and safely. I truly care about our clients and want to see them succeed and hope that while they are here they only have to focus on getting better.

Q3: What do you like most about your job?

One of my favorite parts of my job is the quality time I get to spend engaging with the clients in one on one or in groups, We might be doing Artwork, such as canvas painting or playing a game! But it’s during those times that clients open up to me and tell me their stories! I’d also like to mention that I love that catalyst is pet friendly and has a process in place to incorporate being able to have a pet around our clients which has been really a comfort to our clients! I also have the very best co-workers!

Q4: Why might you encourage someone to detox/withdrawal at our facility rather than simply doing it at home?

I encourage anyone who anticipates going through the withdrawal process to come here, because it can be dangerous to do on your own and we will  help them through it with comfort medication. We also ensure that the client has a process in place for when they finish detox because detoxing is just the first step in recovery!

Q5: What are common barriers to treatment? 

Some of the barriers to treatment that we see with our clients is fear of the unknown and transportation issues, private insurance, and not realizing we are here! 

Community Support

Thank you to the Laborers Local #1216 for your support of Catalyst Life Services! We appreciate the extra support through the Covid 19 crisis as we have had to adapt our service delivery and endure unexpected costs.

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.

Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training

CIT training refers to a collaborative effort between law enforcement and the mental health community to help law enforcement officers handle incidents involving persons suffering with mental illness. It focuses on the need for advanced training and specialization with patrol officers, immediacy of the crisis response, emphasis on officer and consumer safety, and proper referral for those in crisis.

This 40-hour training is comprised of many different speakers from different agencies. They teach first responders about brain illnesses, common symptoms and signs and deescalation strategies during a mental health crisis. Individuals taking the training are also made aware of all mental health resources in this and surrounding counties.

First responders also hear from a panel of individuals with lived experience as well as family members. Many of these individuals have had a police encounter of some sort due to their own or loved one’s mental illness. These perspectives help first responders to better understand mental illness and how to best access and act in certain crisis situations.

CIT has been shown to positively impact perceptions, decrease the need for higher levels of police intervention, decrease officer and consumer injuries, and re-direct those in crisis from the criminal justice system to the health care system. Although this training is offered country-wide, NAMI Richland County offers it twice a year through a collaboration with many local agencies and all local police departments.

Although there are many partners in the implementation of CIT, below you will hear from 3 partners including NAMI Richland County, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and Catalyst Life Services.

NAMI Richland County

Q&A with Mary Kay Pierce,

Executive Director

NAMI Richland County

Q1: Why do you feel there is a need for CIT training?

  We know that CIT training helps divert persons with mental health concerns whenever possible to mental health services instead of the jail.  It educates the first responders with some new tools to deescalate a person in mental health crisis and connect them whenever possible to the mental health agencies in our community. It gives the first responders knowledge of all the resources available to offer to individuals and their families who are experiencing a crisis in mental health or addiction.

Q2: Have you seen a positive change since the implementation of this training?

Yes, I have seen many positive changes since the implementation of this training.

CIT has served as a springboard for a broader collaboration between criminal justice and mental health systems.  I have seen an increase in communication and collaboration between all systems.  Many more individuals are being taken to mental health agencies or the hospital to get the treatment they need.  First responders are also connecting the support persons of individuals in crisis to the help they need. 

Q3: What exactly is NAMI’s role in CIT?

NAMI Richland County plays a huge role in CIT in our community.  NAMI began this training with the support of the Richland County Mental Health Board and our NAMI Board in 2004. We believe that CIT is more than a training we do twice a year. It is about relationships between first responders, mental health agencies and individuals and families living with mental health concerns. We work daily in our office to foster those relationships.  We also meet with all the above three times a year to work on any concerns or needs of the community.  

NAMI is also responsible for many of the details of the training including finding instructors for all the curriculum and reaching out to all first responders who would like to take CIT.  We also work closely with our partners in the training which include Local Police Departments, Richland County Mental Health Board, Mansfield Playhouse, all the mental health agencies, first responders and individuals and families living with mental health concerns.

Q4: In a few sentences, how would you explain what CIT is and how it helps prepare first responders?

Crisis Intervention Team programs are local initiatives designed to improve the way law enforcement and the community respond to people experiencing mental health crisis. They are built on strong partnerships between law enforcement, mental health provider agencies and individuals and families affected by mental illness.  It helps first responders recognize when they may be dealing with a mental health concern and teaches them tools to deescalate a person and get them safely to medical care and not the jail.

Richland County Sheriff’s Department

Q&A with Captain Chris Blunk,

Jail Administrator

Richland County Sheriff’s Department

Q1: Why do you think that CIT training is important?

CIT training gives law enforcement the skills and ability to not only recognize but safely attempt to de-escalate situations involving an individual in a mental health crisis where they are called to intervene by family members, neighbors of the person, or another third party. CIT training has changed the attitudes and responses of officers to people who are experiencing these types of crisis, better preparing officers to serve the community and interact with individuals with mental illness. I believe this has resulted in fewer arrests of people with mental illness, an increased understanding of mental illness, and an increased awareness of what to look for in people who might be in crisis.

Q2: How have you seen CIT benefit first responders?

In my experience at the jail, I have seen my staff, and ultimately the community benefit from officers that are trained in CIT. One example is an arrestee was brought into the jail on a minor misdemeanor charge and this person was difficult to interact with or even gain the necessary information to assess their well-being. The CIT officer recognized that this person was mentally ill and used his training to gather the information needed to properly care for this person during intake and throughout incarceration. 

Q3: How would you explain the role of the Sheriff’s Department in a mental health crisis?

The Sheriff’s Office overall role in a mental health crisis is to engage, assess, and respond in a way that protects and serves the community. 

  • Engage- Law enforcement is usually the first to respond to a person in crisis and will ultimately engage the person in crisis.
  • Assess- Upon engaging the person in crisis, assess the situation to provide for the safety and security of that person and others involved or in close proximity. 
  • Respond- Decision making/recognizing mental health crisis/de-escalation techniques/get them necessary help/etc.         

Catalyst Life Services

Q&A with Erin Schaefer,

Executive Director

Catalyst Life Services

Q1: What is Catalyst’s role in CIT?

Catalyst assists NAMI and the RC Mental Health and recovery Services Board with training CIT officers and first responders on mental health issues and awareness.  We also provide information about how to connect people to treatment.  In addition, we sit on the CIT Advisory Committee to collaborate with police departments and community partners regarding how best to work together to serve the mentally ill in our county.

Q2: Why do you think CIT is needed? How has it helped?

CIT is definitely needed, as many of the most severely mentally ill are living in unstable conditions. Having first responders who are trained to understand signs and symptoms can prevent situations from escalating and from unnecessary uses of force or risk of harm to staff and people being helped.

Q3: Can you speak to any positive changes you have seen because of this training? 

I have seen officers who approach someone who is paranoid with a gentle, reassuring voice instead of yelling commands, which could further increase agitation and hallucinations. I have seen first responders befriend those who can be very suspicious and paranoid with kindness and caring, and this in turn leads to better ongoing working relationships on the streets. When in distress, the mentally ill seek police or first responders as someone who can help instead of “the enemy” who is there to hurt them. 

Q4: Can you speak to the collaboration of Catalyst and the police departments?

The police call into Helpline or contact me directly if there is someone in the community about whom they are concerned.  They let us know if someone is not rising to their level of risk of harm to self or others, but it is someone they think we should know about in order to try to engage that person in treatment or to check on that person if he/she is currently in treatment.  Likewise, we contact the police immediately if we have someone who needs immediate assistance because of concerns about that person’s safety.  We partner with the police frequently, and we could not do our jobs without them!  We are grateful for the collaboration.

CIT presenters teaching First Responders.
Local agencies, including Catalyst, attending the quarterly CIT Advisory Meeting
A police officer receiving his CIT certification.

Recovery & Suicide Awareness Month, Wk. 3

Did you know?

Richland County’s Drug Court began in 1996 and is one of the most established drug courts in the state of Ohio?

Catalyst Life Services partners with the court system as one of their treatment providers.

Click the image above to read how the Richland County Court Systems support recovery. You can also read about the partnership between Catalyst Life Services and the local court system to help individuals who struggle with mental health and substance use concerns. 

Agents of Change: Virtual Recovery Run

Recovery Run Update!

We are half way through our Recovery Run and we are excited to announce our progress! We are about half way to our goal!

Goal: $2,500

Current Amount Raised:

2 Pages:

1. View Mansfield Misfits here
2. View Recovery is Beautiful here

3 Teams:

1. Mansfield Misfits
2. Mid Ohio AFL-CIO
3. Bricklayers Local #40: The Brickies

Click here to learn more and register!

Click the image above to hear from Olivia as she talks about being a Peer Recovery Supporter and what was important for her on her road to recovery.

Q1: How long have you worked at Catalyst Life Services and what do you do there?

I began working at the agency in March 2015. My current title is the, Outpatient Substance Use Disorder Supervisor and Supervisor of Peer Support Services. I co-facilitate the intensive outpatient group (IOP) and am also the Mansfield Municipal Court Liaison among other things. 

Q2: Can you explain what the SUD Outpatient Services are?

They are the treatment services clients engage in for their substance use disorder. Clients can receive services in a variety of ways. Clients can engage in substance use disorder treatment through a group setting or individual sessions. Some clients engage in both. A client’s treatment or level of care is determined by their assessment and the ASAM, both provide medical necessity for the treatment recommended.

Q3: What do you like most about your job?

Many clients initially coming into treatment have minimal hope and low self-esteem. They feel lost and like recovery is not a realistic option for them. I like being able to establish and continue building connection and trust with clients.

Q4: Why are you passionate about Recovery Services?

I believe people do recover; not everyone has that belief. Individuals need to be able to work with professionals without judgment or stigma, who can help motivate them and help clients to see they are resilient and capable of achieving sobriety. Richland is fortunate to have the support of the Richland County Mental Health and Recovery services board. Not every county has the addiction resources this area has.  

Q5: What do you think stops people from getting the services they need for addiction?

Being anxious about the process and not knowing what to expect. Recovery is not easy. Often time’s individuals have used substances so long, it is what they are familiar with. Stopping the use of a substance is only the beginning of the process. Sobriety opens the individual up to being vulnerable and having to address trauma, shame, and guilt.

Q6: In your opinion, what is recovery?

The desire and willingness to have personal growth; emotionally, mentally, and physically. Finding acceptance of your past and moving forward. 

Q7: What would you say to someone who is struggling right now and does not know where to go or may have lost hope?

We all have or will struggle with various issues at some point in life. We can find strength in the support of others and through positive connection. Individuals do not recover alone so reaching out and getting connected to services in the first step in finding hope again.

Suicide Prevention Awareness

We support the mission of 33 Forever, Inc. and were honored to sponsor a hole at the 2nd annual golf outing. Congratulations on such a successful fundraising event!
To learn more about the success of this event click the image above!

NAMI Richland County is one of our community partners!

Click here to read NAMI Richland County’s Newsletter! You can learn suicide warning signs, resources and self care techniques. 

Q1: What is your role at Catalyst and how long have you been here?

 I am a therapist in the AoD department. I run the Recovery Management groups, do assessments for the walk-in clinic, and individual counseling. I have been here at Catalyst for 2 years. 

Q2: Why do you have a passion for your profession?

I have had the wonderful opportunity to see people work through some incredibly difficult things and I always find that to be inspiring. I am thankful that people trust me enough to allow me to accompany them on part of their journey.

Q3: What is something you think the ‘typical’ person might not know about recovery services?

It is a journey with ups and downs and that someone is never starting back at “zero” even after a relapse because they always have the things they have learned they just need to focus on using those skills more effectively. There are times when a client with some clean time will be nervous about admitting that they are struggling with urges and cravings and in reality that is exactly the thing that is important to talk about. Honesty is a huge part of recovery so we should not shame people when they are being honest. Aside from that it is important to remember there is no magic quick fix, it is the daily grind of doing the next right thing that gets and keeps people sober. It is important that the family and loved ones of those struggling with addiction seek out support and help themselves and  do not try to carry that burden on their own.

Q4: What does the word ‘recovery’ mean to you?

Recovery to me is a process that takes time and patience but the word itself more than anything else to me means Hope.

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.

Recovery & Suicide Awareness Month, Wk. 2

Did you know?

Almost 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, yet only 10% of them receive treatment. We want people to know they can come to Catalyst and receive life-saving treatment!

If you can benefit from this treatment call our 24/7 Helpline at 419-522-HELP.

Agents of Change: Virtual Recovery Run

Catalyst Challenges!

After registering for the Recovery Run, you can participate in any of these challenges and be entered to win weekly prizes!

Just take a picture while doing one of the challenges and post on social media using the hashtag, #catalystrunforrecovery or #richlandrunforrecovery 

Click here to learn more and register!

Q&A with Melissa Harrison

Q1: What is your title and how long have you worked at Catalyst?
I am an AOD case manager with outpatient clients and an AOD case manager for residential clients. I am also a liaison for SATC court.  I have worked with Catalyst for 3 years.

Q2: In a few sentences, can you explain what your role at Catalyst consists of?
My role is assessing clients basic needs, coordinating and linking to community resources, advocating, and budgeting.  I also assist with the clients transition back in the community after residential treatment.

Q3: What do you like the most about your job?
There is not just one aspect of my job I like most. I love everything about my job.

Q4: Why are you passionate about Addiction and Recovery Services?
I have been touched ( as many have) by addiction and recovery in my family. Recovery is possible.  

Q5: What do you think stops people from getting the services they need for addiction?
Being uneducated on the services provided within their community. 

Q6: What would you say to someone struggling right now and does not know where to go or may have lost hope?

Connection is the key. I would definitely find out where the person needs to be connected. I would talk with the person and meet them where they are at with their level of change.  Showing someone empathy can go a long way. 

Recovery is Possible

Amanda’s Recovery Success Story

For 22 years, I was living as a shell of the person I truly am. Drugs and Alcohol had led me down a dark and lonely path. I would have to undergo the worst and most difficult phase of my life. My addiction had trapped me and slowly took me down every time. I thought I could control it, but things only got worse. Each time I said it couldn’t get any worse, it did. I had gone down that path so far, the only thing I had left to lose was my life. I had lost all hope, and was merely living an existence that some people think of as impossible to be redeemed from.  

Click here to see Amanda’s Recovery Run Page and read the rest of her recovery story.

Q&A with Mandi Whitlatch

Q1: How long have you worked at Catalyst Life Services?

I started working for the agency in 2005. I left the agency in 2007 for 90 days to pursue phlebotomy. I soon learned that being a phlebotomist wasn’t my passion.

Q2: In a few sentences, can you explain what your role is and what it may look like on a ‘typical’ day?

I provide daily functional oversight to New Beginnings I (NB1) and New Beginnings II (NBII). I am the liaison between agency and community members to coordinate admissions into NBI and NBII.  I am responsible for 24 hour scheduling for NBI, NBII and Withdrawal Management. I also co-supervise the AoD case manager.

Q3: What do you like most about your job?

I enjoy being able to walk with the clients on their journey. In supervision, I enjoy watching my staff grow in their roles with the agency. I love being able to supervise staff that are in this field to give back, and watching the impact they have on the people that we serve. I have the opportunity to speak with families that are seeking help for their loved ones and hear their stories. I enjoy being able to assist people with getting treatment.

Q4: Why are you passionate about Recovery Services?

I believe that people can recover! Our area is so lucky to have the support of the Richland County Mental Health and Recovery services board. We are very fortunate to have New Beginnings I, New Beginnings II and Withdrawal Management. Most counties have to send their residents out of county to get needed treatment. I have family members that have struggled with substance use, and it is important to me that our organization provides trauma informed care by ethical and competent staff. You never know when someone you love will need our services.

Q5: What would you say to someone who is struggling right now and does not know where to go or may have lost hope?

I would share that recovery can be hard, but is worth it. I would educate them on the services that our agency has, and attempt to engage them with someone here. I would offer them the numbers to Helpline and encourage to reach out to someone anytime that they want to talk.

Suicide Prevention Awareness

Community Involvement

Click to watch the Focus on North Central Ohio Show on WMFD as we discuss Recovery & Suicide Awareness Month, the Recovery Run, SUD Services and how recovery is beautiful!

Learn about Catalyst Detox/Withdrawal Management Services