The services provided by ACE are available to anyone who is 18 years or older, a resident of Tuscarawas or Carroll County, is currently receiving treatment for mental illness, has received counseling in the past, self-identifies as a mental health consumer, or is in a state of mental or emotional distress. Under our by-laws up to 25% of our membership may also be family members or support persons. Our population includes persons living with severe and persistent mental illness, as well as those with psychoactive substance abuse/dependence. We are unable to bill Medicaid for our services. The majority of our funds must, therefore, come at the discretion of the ADAMHS Board.
ACE is a Consumer Operated Service. Consumer Operated Services, or COS’s, empower consumers as organizational leaders and staff, include peers in the planning of services, are driven by what helps mental health consumers to stay well, and help meet the recovery needs of consumers when there is a perceived gap in the system. Often, the most valued service we provide is Peer Support. Peer Support consists of people who have lived experience with mental illness guiding, encouraging and helping their peers, individually and in groups, formally and informally; Other services we offer are education, which includes activities that increase the members’ knowledge of mental illness, knowledge of available resources in the community, or which help to improve their ability to cope and grow as human beings; Prevention, which includes programming that helps to improve their ability to make informed choices regarding their health and wellness, with relapse prevention, and to increase resilience and hope; Social and recreational services, which include opportunities to enrich and improve their lives through a variety of activities, community outreach and discovery; Information and referral services, which include connecting our members with service providers in our community who can help them with such issues as crisis, treatment, housing, spiritual questions, employment issues and other issues, as they arise. We also provide transportation and meal services.
Currently, ACE provides meals as one of our daily activities. This is funded through our Activities budget line item and donations from the local Bob Evans, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and recently, Pizza Hut restaurants. We purchase as much of our food and toiletries (when they are available) from the Akron-Canton Food Bank, as we are able.
Additionally, Mr. Doyle Shoup donates dozens of eggs periodically throughout the year. Our meal service has been identified and requested by our members, as it is a vital component of support in their recovery and in helping them maintain stability. For many of them, this is the only meal or the only healthy meal they eat each day. We also provide food for many of our members to take home, and we share our excess with other local entities, such as the Crisis Services Unit, Harbor House, Salvation Army, the homeless shelter and others. ACE also provides transportation for our activities, and to help members get to ACE and return home. This is another service specifically requested by members to help them stay well and maintain stability. The local public transportation services are not an option for our members on a regular basis. This service has been supplemented by grant monies, donations, member dues and fund-raising.
We provide employment support, as requested, whether in the form of transportation or preparing a lunch, getting a haircut or clothes for an interview, conducting a mock interview or providing an opportunity for stress release. ACE provides supported employment opportunities for three current staff members (one is a former ACE member) and for our members to work in volunteer staff positions with the opportunity to earn additional items from ACE Mart (our in-house store), a gas card or even a small stipend. Members can purchase toiletries and other items from ACE Mart with tickets they earn for participating in selected therapeutic activities and support groups. Tickets are also charged for members to participate in select trips and activities in which ACE has a significant cost for admission or transportation. We also work with Job and Family Services, the local courts and probation departments to allow community members to perform their work service or community service hours at ACE. Two current ACE employees were hired after they completed their community service work at ACE. We provide phone support and self help opportunities as needed. ACE also assists members who are unable to afford their medications through our Members Assistance loan program. ACE will loan members up to $20 toward the purchase of their meds. The members sign a contract saying they will pay the loan back before they can request another loan. And, lastly, ACE has begun a modified, “workshop” type program in which our members design and create all-occasion cards as a creative outlet, an additional mindfulness activity, a meaningful work experience, and to raise funds for transportation and our Annual Overnight Experience. Past trips have included a leadership training on the battlefields of Gettysburg, PA, a tour of our nation’s capitol, and a visit to the Smithsonian and President Eisenhower’s farm.
ACE has over 500 member applications in our files. We continue to see an increase in referrals from Personal and Family Counseling Services, Community Mental Healthcare, and local physicians. We are also receiving more referrals from counseling agencies outside the public mental health system, such as New Life Counseling in Dover. Many of these individuals are coming to ACE with additional physical, mental and developmental disabilities.
Our Certified Peer Supporters are working with the ADAMHS board staff to expand the support available in our community for those receiving care at Heartland Behavioral Healthcare and the Crisis Services Unit at CMH. Our Peer Outreach service is meeting with Tuscarawas and Carroll County residents at both facilities approximately twice a month to provide peer support during their stay, and then help facilitate a successful return to the community. We hope to be a resource and support for these folks and eventually help them become involved in the support and programs available to them at ACE. We have just recently begun our visits to Heartland and the CSU, but we see great promise in the future of this program for all who participate, as a peer supporter or as a recipient of peer support services.
We also continue to work to grow our card-making workshop. ACE members who work in the workshop learn to design and make all occasion cards, with the idea that we will eventually sell our cards. This program gives our members a creative outlet, more social interaction with supportive peers and the general public, a chance to help with inventory, take orders, make sales and make change, and the opportunity to perform meaningful work. The card shop is also providing a new income stream for ACE programs and services, as well. The funds from the card shop (currently) have been dedicated to our Annual Overnight Experience in October. We have been charged by the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation with raising additional funds to cover the costs of our trip, and to fulfill the requirements of their grant.
We also play an important part in supporting a variety of mental health causes in our community. ACE has members and staff who have been vital in resurrecting our local NAMI chapter, with three ACE board/staff filling board positions for NAMI, as well, and acting as a voice for consumers. ACE is playing an important role in the support of suicide prevention and awareness by sponsoring the local Out of the Darkness Walk, as well as assisting in the planning of the event and supporting our local Survivors of Suicide support group. Lastly, ACE is also the horne base for our county’s new Peer Support program, which was recently launched with the ADAMHS Board staff to provide additional community support to those receiving services, so that they may be successful in their recovery upon returning to our community.