The 11 regional council members who will allocate OneOhio National Opioid Settlement funds to localities and agencies in Mahoning and Trumbull counties have been named and are now preparing to meet.
Funding for the settlement will be released over the next 18 years. The first round of funding for municipalities was announced in July, but funding for the OneOhio Recovery Foundation has yet to be announced.
The foundation is designed to empower communities to take a regional approach to reducing the opioid epidemic. The state foundation will allocate funds to 19 regions in Ohio. The foundation board will decide how much money will go to each region. It is made up of 29 members. Four of the members were selected by the governor, one was selected by the attorney general, four were selected by the state legislature, and the remaining members will come from each of the 19 regions.
Trumbull and Mahoning counties make up Region 7 with Duane Piccirilli, executive director of the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Council, as its representative.
“Once this is created, it will be one of the main foundations of the state”, said Piccirilli.
This foundation will decide how much money to allocate to each region. Once the money is allocated, the Area 7 council will decide how the funds should be allocated in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
Statewide, the counties in each region decide who sits on the council.
In Region 7, the council is made up of 11 members. From each county there will be the director of the mental health and recovery council, a representative nominated by the township association, a representative nominated by the mayors, a person with lived experience of the opioid epidemic selected by the commissioners in its counties, and a person with professional experience in prevention, treatment or reduction, also selected by the commissioners of their respective county. The CEO of Direction Home of Eastern Ohio, a local resource for the elderly and disabled, also sits on the board, bringing the total number of board members to 11.
Piccirilli said that now that all members are appointed, they are in the process of coming together to create bylaws and procedures, so that once funding from the state recovery foundation becomes available, the board Region 7 administration will be ready to make distributions.
The foundation will be responsible for 55% of the funds earned through the settlement. Thirty percent will be allocated to localities, likely through the governor, to meet the immediate needs of residents and 15 percent will go to the state of Ohio, to be used to leverage purchasing power at the statewide to provide prevention, treatment and recovery support services.
The following individuals have been selected for the Region 7 Board of Directors:
• Piccirilli, who has served as Executive Director of the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Council since May 2014. One of the duties of the Mental Health and Recovery Council is to plan and fundraise for various mental health programs and substance abuse throughout the county, which Piccirilli said would be valuable experience for the Region 7 board.
In 2015, the Mental Health and Recovery Council merged with the Mahoning County Alcohol and Drug Services Council. Former Addiction Services Council Director Brenda Heidinger is now Associate Director of the Mental Health and Recovery Council.
Piccirilli said he plans to involve his staff, especially Heidinger, to help him make decisions. Heidinger has 19 years of experience in the mental health and addictions sector. She is a Certified Prevention Consultant in Ohio and has worked to develop a peer-to-peer recovery support program.
• April Caraway, Executive Director of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Council. Caraway has worked for the Mental Health and Recovery Commission for 18 years, 14 of them as executive director. She also worked in Warren City Schools for nine years as an outreach officer, writing grants for drug and alcohol prevention programs.
She said this regional council provides a unique opportunity to implement strategies and programs for which the Mahoning Valley did not have money before. The most valuable voices, he believes, are those with personal experience of addiction, whether they are in recovery themselves or have a family member affected by the opioid epidemic.
• Administrator of the canton of Poland Eric Ungaro, representative of the Association of the canton of the county of Mahoning. With his extensive background in education and personal experience, Ungaro hopes to use this position on the Region 7 Board of Directors to maintain focus on those affected by the outbreak.
He has been a special education teacher and coach since the early 1990s in both Youngstown City Schools and local Howland Schools. He said he’s seen students struggle with drug addiction, which he says is particularly prevalent in the inner city. He also had a brother and two uncles who struggled with drug addiction, all of whom died of drug overdoses.
“I want to help for sincere and personal reasons” said Ungaro. “I have seen children I trained die. I saw my brother struggle. I want to keep the focus on individuals and their families.
Ungaro is in his third term as a board member of the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board and has served as a Poland Township Trustee since 2012.
• Greg Leonhard, Kinsman Township Administrator, Trumbull County Township Association Representative. After the TCTA contacted Leonhard to be its representative, he said he was happy to accept as it was another way for him to help the county. He said he will not only represent Kinsman, but all of the township governments in the region to ensure they have a voice in how this money will be spent.
Earlier this year, Leonhard retired from the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department, where he was the commander of that county’s drug task force. He previously served on a regional drug task force which dissipated in 2019. In total, he has around 15 years of law enforcement work with people with substance abuse issues.
“I’ve had a lot of ideas over the years, from what I’ve seen in my work, about things we miss,” he said. “I also want to listen to other township officials and their officers who are on the streets every day to deal with this.”
• Erin Bishop, representative chosen by the Mayors of Mahoning County, for her work as the City of Youngstown Health Commissioner. She has worked in the health district since 2011.
Prior to that, she was the Program Director for the Mahoning County Homeless Continuum of Care and a Health Educator at the Youngstown Community Health Center. She now sits on various professional boards and coalitions, including the Mahoning County Prescription Overdose Coalition and the Youngstown Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Coalition for Health Promotion.
• Hannah Petrosky, Representative chosen by the Mayors of Trumbull County. Petrosky received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Kent State University and a master’s degree in mental health counseling from Youngstown State University. She is a Registered Professional Counselor with Allied Behavioral Health and has two years of experience working with children and adults.
• Victor Daprile, person with lived experience from Mahoning County, and Linda Spies, person with lived experience from Trumbull County. Daprile and Spies each have first-hand experience of how the opioid epidemic has affected individuals, as they each have a family member who has or had a substance abuse problem. Caraway said Spies started a peer support group for parents of children who have died from overdoses.
• Joe Rossi, CEO of Direction Home of Eastern Ohio. The other two council members are Carolyn Givens as a person with Mahoning County work experience and Sarah Volinchack as a person with Trumbull County work experience.