From The Desk of Andy Albrecht, CEO of TCC
Fellow citizens, as you well know, our region became the epicenter of the opioid epidemic approximately 2 decades ago. Big Pharma targeted our region with an influx of medications under the guise of non-addictive healthcare and pain management. Local pharmacists and physicians were targeted in this strategy, and our families and neighborhoods were changed almost instantly. In a matter of years, our declining employment opportunities reached levels of despair. Neighborhoods were left in disrepair, and our loved ones throughout southcentral Ohio witnessed the deaths of friends and family regardless of age, race, socioeconomic status, or other identifier. Approximately 12 years ago, Scioto County peaked with 13 pill mills, pumping medication throughout our society at an increasing rate, with nearly 6 million pain pills moved annually through Scioto county alone. An aggressive enforcement initiative drove those mills away and reduced prescription abuse, but left in the wake addicted individuals seeking other supplies, while also raising young ones who themselves were exposed to substance abuse as a way of life with almost no chance for success. Most recently, more than 10 Ohioans die of an overdose every single day.
The Counseling Center (TCC), the region’s largest non-profit behavioral healthcare provider established in 1980, has taken an aggressive and tireless strategy to become the region’s leader in recovery. TCC has worked diligently through the years to meet the demand of individuals in our region who need help, providing truly comprehensive care, offering everything from withdrawal management to residential care to outpatient services. TCC specializes in wrap around services found almost nowhere else in the state – housing, food services, transportation, legal aid, family support and reunification, youth programming, prevention, vocational development, employment assistance, credit repair, financial aid, banking services, and social reintegration alongside long-term housing safety. TCC’s clients come from all walks of life, with 80% of our clients coming from the immediate area, and another 20% coming from either the region’s Community-Based Correctional Facilities (CBCF’s) (locally known as STAR Community Justice Center) or seeking care from our Stepping Stones Mother’s Care Programming, a very rare service line within the state wherein children can remain with their mothers while they receive care. TCC does not provide services to those with a criminal history of violence, arson, or sex/harassment. TCC provides services for approximately 3,000 people in our communities every year, and more than 50% of those individuals successfully follow their plan of care (typically a 6-month to 1-year line of care) or transfer into other appropriate behavioral health services. Many of those completing are employed by TCC, establishing secure and sustainable long-term recovery. In fact, 70% of our employees are in long-term recovery. Over the past decade, TCC’s diverse service line has generated hundreds of jobs and brought economic impact to an area in desperate need of job creation and development. Those not completing services are either transferred to other facilities that are more appropriate for them or their choices, or are returned to their home/place of origin. If the individuals are a justice referral, they are connected with their referral source – TCC never allows a client to simply walk away from services, that is completely irresponsible and totally unsafe for the client and the community as a whole and TCC holds a zero tolerance policy on this concern. Clients either complete, return to their home of origin, or return to their justice referral.
Recently, you may have seen communications on social media or in various civic forums presenting data or information concerning behavioral health and addiction treatment. Much of the information is incomplete or misrepresented and in many instances is driven in fear and lack of understanding. The following attempts to clarify this information from TCC’s data and insight:
1. Homelessness, Crime, and Vagrancy – Clients leave treatment, become homeless, and generate crime – This is untrue at TCC. No one leaves treatment to become homeless as said above. In addition, if someone is referred from “out of town” (i.e., a mother and child from Ross County), they are safely and quickly transported back or handed over to their justice referral if applicable.
2. Main Campus – There are rumors running through the community that TCC is not moving forward with the Main Campus located in the former Mitchellace Building. This is not true, TCC has been working diligently for more than 2 years on this project. TCC has completed the environmental cleanup, roof replacement, waste removal, and interior cleanout to a cost of over $2.5MM. In addition, TCC back-office staff work inside the former shoe string offices currently, occupying areas that have been vacant for decades. TCC has completed designs and submitted those for state approval, and is working on both financing and construction plans so that the build out takes place in an affordable, strategically-focused timeframe. Many have asked where staff will park – there are over 150 parking spots behind and surrounding the facility, and most clients do not drive. TCC plans to have no more than 200 staff in the facility at any given work-shift when fully developed and overflow will be bussed to the site (if needed) from an off-site location similar to other operations in our area.
3. Hotel Purchase – TCC is in the process of closing with the Rodeway Inn located in Rosemount to provide housing for individuals in our care, individuals suffering from mental health issues, addiction issues, or homelessness. This is not an expansion but rather a relocation of individuals from standard home locations to a more congregate setting. This facility will house individuals who have already been within TCC services for at least 1 if not 2 months, will include round-the-clock clinical and security staff, will be equipped with high quality security cameras and systems, and will not be community-facing (will not involve individuals walking into local neighborhoods). The facility will undergo a full renovation through the coming months, and will be accompanied by financial support for the local community that far exceeds prior hotel tax dollars. In addition, the former Inn was known by local law enforcement and political leaders as a true hot bed in the local US23 Drug Pipeline – serving as a drop and distribute point in the pipeline. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) records reveal that nearly 40 individuals have died in that location this year alone, and local operators have experienced at least 1 violence/drug-related law enforcement call at that location each week this year.
4. Overwhelming Local Medical and Emergency Services – TCC has learned of concerns that treatment overwhelms local medical and emergency response services. TCC is proud to have established TCCHealth over a year ago, providing day and afterhours care for all non-life threatening conditions for our clients. TCC is in the process of establishing internal 24-hour EMS and fire services that will respond to all internal concerns around the clock, fully eliminating the need for any fire or ambulance responses. In addition, earlier this year TCC established an internal security-force that patrols our locations and client settings, ensuring that our behavior within the community is appropriate and that our clients are protected while in our care.
5. Importing Clients – The community has expressed outrage that clients are brought into our area from out of town and then flea into the area committing crimes and burdening society. TCC has never been focused solely on helping individuals within the county. For 42 years, TCC has established services with the intent to help our region, and has done so this entire time. The state agencies have worked alongside TCC in this approach. In addition, as stated before, when a client leaves TCC they are not left to roam, regardless of their place of origin. And while TCC does not actively seek clients from outside our immediate region (1-hour radius), we are known as a provider of choice to many law enforcement operations and within the recovery community, and are engaged by referral sources outside the area within the state. However, we hear the community and are working to establish additional comprehensive satellite operations. We have an operation in West Union, and will soon open a location in Lawrence County. We are also actively planning to expand into the northern portions of our region. We believe these satellites will help us provide strong care to the region while also allowing individuals to remain closer to their place of origin, if that place is in fact safe for them to remain.
6. Funding – Members of the community have questioned how TCC is funded. TCC clients are no different than any other person within the state of Ohio. Their healthcare is provided either by personal insurance, private pay, or Medicare/Medicaid. The funding is applied to providers within the state, identical to personal insurance plans wherein one can receive care in their plan or can petition for out-of-plan coverage with the funding source.
7. Success Rates – TCC has an extremely strong success rate. Most all individuals complete care according to their treatment plan, usually spanning 6-12 months depending upon the individual, or transfer into other options for their behavioral healthcare. Many clients remain close to TCC for several years, taking advantage of their recreational and health/wellness resources, vocational placement services, and long-term housing support as well as support of community events and recovery meetings – all of which help an individual stay close to others in recovery, growing more and more sustainable. Misinformation among the community has wrongly referenced admissions and completion data on the TCC web page to calculate success rates of 10% – this calculation assumes that everyone entering treatment completes within that calendar year or fails out of treatment – this is not a proper calculation given that the treatment can exceed a full year, that several will be transferred to other providers according to their need or desire, and that many have to interrupt treatment to fulfill legal obligations before returning to care. In reality, less than 10% of TCC clients choose to leave treatment to return to a life of addiction or incarceration, and as stated previously, those individuals are absolutely not permitted to walk away and wander the streets – they are safely returned to their home wherever it may be, or their justice referral source if they have one.
TCC understands that there are other for-profit providers that operate in our region, they operate state-wide. Very few of those providers have missions that align with TCC’s, most are focused on approaches that absolutely do not. TCC asks that our community exercise judgement when evaluating the greater good – and remembers that the Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services (OMHAS) has jurisdiction on this within the state. OMHAS is able to field complaints about operations and the community is encouraged to report those concerns, regardless of nature or operation, to the state. In addition, the Ohio Department of Medicaid funds nearly all treatment operations in some fashion and will investigate complaints.
TCC is a very unique agency in terms of programming and operation, something we are very proud of. We are a not-for-profit and place all revenue into the community, we employ over 500 persons locally, we fund nearly $3MM into other events, agencies, and property restorations annually, and most importantly, we are ran by individuals who were born here, raised here, live here, and love our area – our intent is solely to help and to make everywhere we exist better for it, and we listen to and care deeply for this community and our region as a whole. It is our strategic plan to house services currently existing in Scioto County into as few locations as possible, improving efficiency and resulting in less neighborhood concern. In addition, our plan includes, as indicated previously, to construct satellite operations that will face our regions more effectively. We listen and we care, and we appreciate all those who support our mission and those who achieve recovery.