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February 11, 2021

OhioMHAS Director Lori Criss Speaks to Northeast Ohio Hospital Opioid Consortium

Northeast Ohio Hospital Opioid ConsortiumOhio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Lori Criss joined the Northeast Ohio Hospital Opioid Consortium for its quarterly meeting this month to discuss and answer questions about OhioMHAS’s work to address the behavioral health needs of Ohioans.

OhioMHAS Pandemic Response

The state anticipated at the outset that the COVID-19 pandemic would have a detrimental impact on mental health and substance use. Director Criss highlighted the following activities in response:

  • Officials worked to make it easier for providers to expand telehealth services, made Ohio the first state to have a plan approved around take-home doses of medication-assisted treatment, and made naloxone more readily available through a mail-order program.
  • The Ohio CareLine, 1-800-720-9616, launched in mid-April to assist people struggling with their mental and emotional health and served as an example to other states across the country that sought to establish a similar resource.
  • The state also launched in April the “Strive for Five” challenge, a campaign to help people cope with feelings of stress, anxiety and isolation by encouraging them to connect with others. Begun in New York, it was brought to Ohio by the Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services Board of Lorain County.

Behavioral Health Connection

In November, OhioMHAS unveiled its new Behavioral Health Connection, an online psychiatric bed registry intended to facilitate timely admission to an inpatient psychiatric unit, improving access to care for residents in Northeast Ohio with serious mental illness. Built on the OpenBeds platform, the creation of the registry was supported through one-time funds received from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The state’s vision is to extend the registry to include substance use disorder (SUD) treatment and to expand statewide.

State Budget

Director Criss also touched on the biennial state budget. The governor’s 2022-2023 budget proposal includes funding for initiatives under:

  • RecoveryOhio to increase access to harm reduction and comprehensive care through hospital emergency departments;
  • The Department of Education to support student wellness along with prevention and treatment support in schools, and
  • The Department of Medicaid to support behavioral health care coordination and integration with physical health.

OhioMHAS’s budget includes a number of priorities around children, youth and families; serious mental illness; crisis services; sustaining regional psychiatric hospitals as a safety net; and an equitable system of care.

State Opioid Response Funds

The state, which was initially awarded State Opioid Response funds by the federal government in 2018 and 2019, is receiving two additional years of funding, supporting work through September 2022. While the first two years of funding focused on individuals with a history of opiate overdose or a diagnosis of opioid use disorder (OUD), the second two years will expand to include people with other SUDs, including stimulant misuse and nicotine dependency. OhioMHAS will be posting funding opportunities in the days to come.

The next quarterly meeting of the Opioid Consortium will take place in May and is expected to feature Manreet Bhullar, forensic epidemiologist with the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office, who will be presenting on gabapentin prescribing and potential misuse.

For more on the Northeast Ohio Hospital Opioid Consortium’s work and its recent meeting with OhioMHAS Director Lori Criss, contact us.


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