Public Policy Innovation
Substance abuse prevention and mental health
Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs’ work with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) has been identified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as a national example of the role of higher education in the development of prevention programs.
Voinovich School faculty and professional staff have worked with numerous partners, including 142 Ohio community-based organizations that span 57 of Ohio’s 88 counties. This includes program evaluation, professional development training, and customized technical assistance to help local organizations build the capacity and infrastructure to improve the effectiveness of their prevention efforts. To ensure alignment among prevention initiatives, they also work closely with SAMHSA as well as several state agencies, including the Ohio Departments of Education, Health, Rehabilitation and Correction, and Youth Services. This successful collaboration resulted in lead faculty member, Dr. Holly Raffle, being named “State Prevention Champion of the Year,” only the second person to be so honored.
Since 2009, the Voinovich School has secured over $6 million from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) to support community-based processes with adults and young people to address issues related to substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion. In 2018, the school secured their first federally funded grant of $200,000 from the Health Resources and Services Administration to work with five Ohio communities to help develop effective strategies for fighting Ohio’s opioid epidemic.
The Voinovich School’s TechGROWTH Ohio is a public-private partnership model that has received significant national attention. Started in 2007, this program has provided custom consulting services and more than $11 million in funding for technology-related businesses in a 20-county region of Southeast Ohio, including:
- No-cost technical assistance from experts in fields ranging from sales and accounting to prototypes and patents
- Help to identify high-value hires for leadership and executive-level positions
- Capital, including gap reduction grants, pre-seed funding and access to angel investors
These companies, in turn, have generated nearly $500 million in new sales, outside investment and research grants. To put this another way, every dollar of state money invested has produced $21 in economic activity. These businesses have also created and retained more than 600 new jobs with an average annual salary of nearly $50,000, greatly exceeding the regional average. “Our uniqueness lies in the rural region we serve and our primary stakeholders—Ohio University and the nationally acclaimed Ohio Third Frontier,” says Lynn Gellermann, Executive Director of TechGROWTH. “With their collaboration, we’ve served more than 1,800 entrepreneurs—university spinouts, countless startups and growth companies achieving double- and triple-digit year-over-year top line acceleration.”
Funded through the State of Ohio’s Third Frontier program entrepreneurial services provider program, TechGROWTH also played a leading role in the establishment of OHIO’s Center for Entrepreneurship, the only entrepreneurial center in the country co-sponsored by a public affairs school and a business college.
The Ohio University Innovation Center
The Innovation Center (IC) has been helping entrepreneurs turn their promising ideas into flourishing businesses since 1983. The first university business incubator in the state, the center was created to bolster the economic vitality of the surrounding region by providing critical support to early-stage startup companies. The 36,000 square-foot facility features biotechnology labs, office and conference spaces, and an Additive Manufacturing Lab with prototype development equipment, including the region’s most advanced 3D printer. The IC also offers business coaching and access to funding opportunities and other resources to help startup companies grow.
Since its inception, the IC has helped launch over 300 companies, creating more than 3,000 high-paying jobs. The vast majority of companies that graduate from the IC stay and grow their ventures in Southeast Ohio, including success stories like Diagnostic Hybrids, Inc. (acquired by Quidel Corporation), RXQ Compounding, Athens Technical Specialists, Inc., Third Sun Solar, and Ecolibrium Solar.
The IC has received national and international attention for its incubation program, including its recent recognition as:
- The Rural-Based Entrepreneurship Center of the Year, 2019, International Business Innovation Association (InBIA)
- The Randall M. Whaley Incubator of the Year, 2019, InBIA
- The Rural Incubator of the Year, 2016, InBIA
- The #8 Top University Incubator in North America, UBI Global, 2015–2017
- The #3 Top University Incubator in the United States, UBI Global, 2015–2017
- A Global Soft Landings Designee (assistance to foreign companies entering the U.S. market), INBIA, 2017–present
Just in the last three years, the Innovation Center has secured $2.2 million in grants primarily for equipment and capital upgrades including state-of-the-art biotechnology equipment for its shared laboratory spaces utilized by incubated companies.
The IC is part of a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem and works closely with University and regional partners, including TechGROWTH Ohio.
When rain comes in contact with rocks and coal broken during the mining process, the resulting runoff tends to contain high levels of acidity, iron, manganese and aluminum. In addition to turning the water an unsightly orange, watersheds that receive enough of this acid mine drainage are no longer able to sustain life.
Beginning in the 1980s, non-profit organizations collaborated with government agencies, private foundations, and staff at what is now Ohio University’s Voinovich School. Over time, they developed plans, obtained funding and conducted projects designed to minimize and counteract the impact of acid mine drainage. For example, Raccoon Creek absorbs runoff from a 683 square mile area of southeast Ohio. This land also includes 78 square miles previously mined for coal. Since 2000, members of this collaborative have obtained $14.5 million in funding for 20 reclamation and treatment projects. Due to these efforts, nearly all of Raccoon Creek (111 miles) has returned to target pH levels, and more than 73 percent is healthy enough to sustain the aquatic life typically found in this region.
Voinovich School faculty and professional staff also conduct research on a variety of water-related topics, including developing more accurate measures of the potential impact of future mining activity on local watersheds and tracking migration of wastewater deposited in Athens county injection wells after use in the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process.