XENIA — Professionals at the intersection of mental health, substance abuse, and the court system often do their work under the radar. However, leaders at Greene County courts recognized Melissa Walters this week for her outstanding contributions to mental health and recovery services in Greene County.
Elyssa Dailey, Director of the Greene County Adult Probation Department, and Judges Wolaver and Buckwalter of the Greene County Common Pleas Court, presented Walters with the Carol Wichman Award.
The award, given annually by the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Clark, Greene and Madison County, recognizes people who have made significant contributions to mental health and recovery in their community.
“These individuals exemplify leadership through service, as recognized by their colleagues and community members” said Dr. Greta Mayer, CEO of MHRB.
Walters serves as the Clinical Coordinator for the Greene Leaf program, and has worked for the Greene County Adult Probation Department for 11 years.
A day in Walters’ professional life involves a great deal of compassion. Typically, she works with the court to determine whether a charge is mental health or drug court related, consults with behavioral health professionals, and visits with the clients themselves to encourage them. Walters coordinates a dedicated staff of counselors committed to substance abuse recovery and mental health services in Greene County, the courts said.
“When an individual is charged with a crime, at their sentencing they are told to go to Greene Leaf,” Walters said. “Usually, once they come to our level of treatment they’ve exhausted all other avenues.”
Walters and her staff work hard to keep their clients out of jail and in recovery.
“Sometimes they come with a mandatory jail sentence (a felony OVI, for example). If they go to prison first, it makes our job harder,” Walters said. “Somebody has to change who they are in prison to protect themselves. Once they go to prison, it’s harder to break down those walls.”
Greene Leaf, which is administered by the Adult Probation Department in Xenia, is a six month residential drug and alcohol program that provides intensive substance abuse counseling, as well as other practical skills to help people suffering from addiction to get back on their feet.
“It’s one of the more underserved populations, and a very challenging population to work with,” Walters said. “People don’t like to go to jail but it’s often one of the places where people can get treatment.”
Judges created the program in 2002 because they saw a need for a longer term program for people who aren’t successful in other resident programs. Originally a men’s program, a service for women was added in 2006.
While helping people struggling with addiction and mental health is a difficult task, Walters said people who have been through the program have come back to thank Greene Leaf for their work.
“Some people come back thankful, others come back because they relapse,” she said. “But we tell them ‘I’m proud of you for coming back,’ because it shows they’re committed to their recovery. Sometimes it takes more time for different people to realize they want to do something different with their lives.”
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