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Today's Family Magazine

Northeast Ohio-based nonprofit to expand statewide impact during opioid epidemic

In a very real sense, a partnership between like-minded organizations is an exchange of gifts.  In the case of Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and the Mentor-based nonprofit SMART Recovery (SMART), the “gift” of a generous grant by OhioMHAS to SMART was made possible by the State Opioid Response (SOR) program.  This grant is intended to help those misusing substances and/or engaging in negative behaviors.  In exchange, SMART will provide recovery support resources and a can-do attitude to make their programs more accessible to more Ohioans.

Last year, the organizations collaborated with OhioMHAS to address the significant social problem of holiday isolation, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, by launching an initiative called Holiday Outreach Helping Others (HoHo).  OhioMHAS financial resources made possible an increase in the number of online mutual support meetings, no cost training for addiction professionals in using SMART’s practical tools, and a host of other services.

The goal was to bring support, hope and healing to struggling Ohioans, their families, and the community at large.  By all measures it was a success but unfortunately, the crisis continues.

Now, in a deepening of the partnership, OhioMHAS has once again provided a significant grant to SMART.  In return, SMART is poised to create impactful programming which will benefit Ohioans across the state by addressing the still-raging Opioid overdose crisis.  

OhioMHAS awarded SMART almost $600K as part of the “Use of Innovation” portion of the overall State Opioid Response grant program.  These funds are intended to support technology and innovation advancements in Ohio’s behavioral health care delivery system. SMART’s Executive Director Mark Ruth notes, “As we’ve seen the number of deaths from opioid overdoses skyrocket, we are pleased to be able to utilize the SOR grant financial resources to increase access to our face-to-face and virtual meetings, and support resources.  This will not only make our recovery resources more widely available, but also make it easier for individuals with hearing/vision and language challenges to benefit from them.  We are pleased to continue our OhioMHAS partnership to help those seeking recovery support.” 

OhioMHAS announced a total of 21 recipients for use of the SOR innovation funds. 

“The opioid epidemic hasn’t gone away –– it persists as a threat to our citizens and our communities, said OhioMHAS Director Lori Criss.  This funding will help our local partners connect even more Ohioans to treatment and recovery services and support their use of new technology and innovation to stem the tide of opioid addiction,” stated Ruth.

SMART’s plan for the funds includes an array of services and supports, falling into several main areas: 

  • Increased resource accessibility through large print and braille materials for visually impaired persons, handbook translation to Somalian, videos in Spanish, downloadable apps, and a tablet loan program. 
  • IT solutions that are customer facing, such as an online chat box, a SMART mobile friendly app, and a peer-to-peer engagement product that will help manage the volume of chat messages, as well as adding weekend hours for phone support. Also, more efficient database connections to an estimated 100 organizational partners. 
  • Additional mutual support group meetings.  This includes greater availability for those inside and outside prisons to curtail drug-related recidivism.  Regular training of SMART facilitators to prevent burnout as well as identifying second facilitators to lead to greater meeting tenure. 
  • A web-based class for people who struggle with a behavior that may not be an addiction, but may lead to an addiction, i.e., prevention rather than treatment. 

According to Ruth, “We’ve already started moving forward with translations of materials and other work.  Together with the state and all the other innovative organizations, we believe that SMART will continue our effective work and demonstrate an increased impact.  It’s the least we can do to help those who are struggling or may be headed for trouble with the use of opioids.”

The bottom line is the fact that the partnership that has been forged between OhioMHAS and SMART is not only strong and effective, but every indication is that it will continue to deepen.  This exchange of resources and organizational abilities is a gift that will keep on giving to all Ohioans. 

For more information about SMART Recovery please visit