Statewide Center works toward health equity for all Ohioans

Published: December 15, 2022 Author: Staff reports

People are the heart of preventing substance use disorder and promoting mental health.

In Ohio communities, people are working to help themselves meet health challenges – and people are working to help them do it. It’s a vibrant ecosystem that places emphasis on partnership, prevention science and equity to make positive change in systems and structures and, most importantly, the health outcomes of all Ohioans.

Holly Raffle, a professor at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service, serves as faculty director for the Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Prevention and Promotion, a statewide partnership focused on building infrastructure and capacity to address mental, emotional and behavioral health.

The Center, launched in 2022 and funded by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, brings together members of community-based organizations and prevention providers across the state of Ohio who are engaged in promoting mental health, resilience and wellbeing; preventing mental and substance use disorders; and creating environments that nurture healthy families and communities.

“The Center of Excellence and this collective work is so important not only for the way the work has a direct positive impact on people in Ohio, but because it demonstrates the true power of what can be achieved when so many people and organizations move together toward a common goal,” said Raffle, professor of leadership and public service, who leads the University’s Partnership for Community-Based Prevention. “The Center’s tactical goal is to provide the resources that prevention specialists, local prevention providers and community-based coalitions need to support their communities – but the biggest goal, and the reason why we’re all doing this work, is to do our part to keep Ohio a safe and healthy place to live, learn, work, play and age.”

In its short existence, the Center of Excellence has demonstrated great impact. The Center established a web and social media presence to communicate information to stakeholders across Ohio and launched a monthly webinar series to provide professional development on a variety of prevention-related topics. With a goal of getting an evidence-based prevention message in every Ohio home, the Center of Excellence granted a total of $750,000 to 18 community-based coalitions to field media campaigns focused on preventing youth substance use, problem gambling, and suicide as well as promoting mental wellness.

Currently, there are 645 credentialed prevention specialists tasked with serving Ohio’s 11.7 million residents. As such, increasing the prevention workforce within a framework that promotes equity is an initial focus of the Center of Excellence. In partnership with the Mansfield Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program and PreventionFIRST!, the Center of Excellence invested $250,000 to implement a prevention specialist training program specifically for  people who are African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian Pacific American, and/or Hispanic/Latino/a/x. Additionally, the Center granted a total of $250,000 to eight community-based coalitions to host professional development opportunities in the communities they serve.

“While mental health and addiction prevention programs always have been engaged in work around the state, the Center of Excellence is, for the first time, providing a centralized, consistent and culturally relevant approach to advancing prevention services in the state of Ohio,” said Lori Criss, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “This Center of Excellence will partner closely with county Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health boards, prevention providers, community coalitions, faith-based organizations and many others to expand best-in-class prevention resources, training, and supports.”

Learn more about the Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Prevention and Promotion at or connect with @ohiopreventioncoe on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.