The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 16, 2013

Ashtabula County mental health group needs help

By CARL E. FEATHER - cfeather@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

ASHTABULA — From board members to a place to establish a drop-in center, the Ashtabula County Mental Health Consumer’s Advocating for Equality group needs help.

The group held its first meeting in September and has been meeting monthly since then, said Ron Sigley, chairman of the nine-member board. The next meeting is 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday at the former Snodgrass building on Park Avenue, next to FirstMerit Bank.

The group came together last fall to investigate the possibility of establishing a drop-in center for adult mental health consumers. The center would provide an accepting environment for socialization and programming.

“It would be a good place to go where we would not feel stigmatized and where we could set up activities,” said Jessica Jewett, secretary.

Sigley said the center will need a private funding source, which could be member fundraisers or some type of business that could be operated at the center. Suggestions include a Laundromat or a coffee shop.

“A lot of the consumers have worked in the restaurant business,” Sigley said.

At this time, however, the priority is organization — writing bylaws, completing the slate of board members and obtaining non-profit tax status from the Internal Revenue Service. Sigley said there are four board seats left to be filled; thus far, the members are Sigley, Jewett, Terry Wereb, Jerry Sabo and Michael Stanaford. Board appointments were made at the December meeting.

Sigley said attendance has not exceeded 10 people per meeting.

“There are a lot of small things that have to be taken care of at first,” he said. “(Potential members) want us to be up and running and have a place before they come.”

Sigley said that if the group had some funding, a foreclosed property could be purchased and rehabilitated for a drop-in center. Jewett said that, ideally, the center would be located in the greater Ashtabula area.

“I think the place should have plenty of parking and be on a bus route,” Jewett said. “That’s a very important point.”

Transportation issues have surfaced as one of the big concerns of the consumers who have participated in the group’s formative meetings. Sigley said that, as an advocacy act, the group is conducting a survey for users of the medical and dial-a-ride services of the Ashtabula County Transportation System (ACTS). Users who wish to pose questions or report poor service can do so by visiting the group’s Facebook page at facebook.com/Ashtabuladropincenter, or by sending an email to Ashtabula.Advocate@ yahoo.com.

Jewett, who also serves as editor of the group’s newsletter, said they hope to publish their first one next month and thereby further unite the county’s community of adult mental health consumers.

“We got a lot to do, and we’re going to get there,” Jewett said.