​On April 12, it was announced that the Ohio Empowerment Coalition (OEC) was ceasing operations and dissolving as a non-profit. As board president, my e-mail address was provided for any questions and any unresolved issues.

Unsurprisingly, my e-mail box exploded. People all over the state wanted to know why the OEC was going away. Most e-mails contained the phrase, “What happened?” and all of them expressed sadness that the OEC was closing.

I, too, am saddened by this. I want to assure everyone that shuttering the OEC was not something that any of us on the board took lightly. After the decision was made, people cried. We care about peers in Ohio – because we are all peers, too.

Peer Supporter Certificate Information

Many questions were about the peer support certificate. These certificates have always been issued by OhioMHAS, not the OEC, so this development in no way affects the validity of your certificates.

If you were a peer supporter in good standing on April 10, you are a peer supporter in good standing today. If you have questions about the status of a training or a test, please contact OhioMHAS directly at 1-877-275-6364 or via their website, http://mha.ohio.gov.

Please Note: New peer support rules and information are coming out from OhioMHAS. In May and June, there will be four free symposiums held around the state to update everyone on the new information. You can learn more and register here: http://peersupportsymposium.eventbrite.com. (Other locations will be added in the coming months.)

Official Reason for Closure

The issues that led to the end of the OEC did not happen overnight. The circumstances began over a year ago. The OEC sustained its first major budget cut around June of 2015. Around the same time, OhioMHAS issued a public Request for Proposals (RFP) to do the work that had historically been done by the OEC.

Over the past 12 months, the OEC saw a steady decrease in funding as different projects were pulled, including peer support. As the OEC continued to lose pieces of its block grant, it became harder and harder to maintain operations. In addition, the grant OEC had with SAMHSA was frozen around the end of 2015, and many of the previous grants were not renewed. Finally, the OEC lost its last grant on April 6, 2016, leaving us without a source of income.

Ultimately, the reason for ceasing operations came down to money. The organization simply did not have enough resources to survive and was unable to attract additional sources of funding.

From the outside, this closure seems sudden, but it is actually the result of more than a year of issues, dating back to the beginning of 2015, that the leadership of the OEC was unable to properly resolve.

Moving Forward

As board president, I regret that more could not be done to save the organization and I want to personally apologize to all peers. Everyone on the board of directors is incredibly sorry that it has come to this. Peers in Ohio deserved better.

There is no point in trying to lay blame. It makes little sense to waste time figuring out what went wrong in the past when there is so much incredible work that continues.

Consumer operated services and businesses are strong, our county mental health boards are healthy, and the peer supporter program is growing. OhioMHAS is investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in new initiatives this year alone.

The recovery movement was never about one organization – and it should never be. Our movement is about all of us, coming together and advocating for better systems, better treatment, and a voice at the table – a seat at the table.

The work the OEC was doing was never about a single person, or even a group of people; it was always about everyone. . .

. . . and everyone is still here.

What we stand for did not belong to the OEC. Our goals don’t change because one organization is lost due to circumstance. Our voices haven’t been silenced and our efforts can’t be stopped because of a single organization closing down.

Peers advocate, peers educate, and peers instigate change. Peers are resilient and peers don’t give up.

Peers do these things because we believe, strongly, in our motto: Nothing about us, without us.

Onward. Together.

Thank you,

Gabe Howard
OEC Board President