May 9, 2014. The Columbus Dispatch.
Bev Orazen said her Catholic faith means that she believes in the dignity of every person.
That’s why she decided to help a Franklin County interfaith organization find a solution to the inadequate care often received by the mentally ill.
Orazen, who attends St. Thomas More Newman Center in the University District, is among about 4,000 people expected on Monday at a gathering of the Building Responsibility, Equality And Dignity coalition — referred to as BREAD.
The Nehemiah Action meeting in the Celeste Center at the Ohio Expo Center focuses on one social-justice issue each year. This year, BREAD’s member congregations, which number more than 50, decided to take on the cause of the mentally ill.
“I can’t recall a problem selected that was as universally experienced by the membership,” said Cantor Jack Chomsky of Congregation Tifereth Israel on the Near East Side. “ Everyone has had a connection to the problem.”
Gail Taschner, a member of Karl Road Christian Church on the North Side, said a steering committee heard from groups around Franklin County that people struggled to find treatment for mental illness and too often ended up in emergency rooms or crisis-intervention centers that stabilize patients but don’t provide long-term treatment.
Taschner cited statistics showing that more than 205,000 people in the county experience a mental disorder every year, and that the number of people seeking inpatient psychiatric care has doubled in the past four years.
A group of BREAD members visited Magnolia Clubhouse in Cleveland, a center for people with severe, persistent mental illness, and they plan to advocate for a similar facility here, Orazen said.
The Magnolia approach, she said, is to help patients eventually find employment by treating them as “members” who have work roles, such as helping with payroll, making lunches, performing maintenance or producing a daily news show.
BREAD also plans to push for “assertive community treatment” teams that pull together social-service and mental-health professionals to provide care to patients in their communities, Orazen said.
The Rev. George Glazier, rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in the University District, said clergy members deal with mental-health issues much more often than many would imagine. He often helps one or two people a day, he said.
The Episcopal tradition says the church should work in the public arena as well to help people in need.
“We need to look at the big picture,” Glazier said. “Where are the public leaders who can make life better for these people? Because they matter. They have dignity.”
Taschner described BREAD as a group that works to solve injustices by working for systemic changes rather than giving direct help. This year, the group plans to use the Nehemiah event to present its recommendations to David Royer, chief executive officer of the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County.
Chomsky said the group has achieved success in taking on a number of daunting community problems. He pointed to the Affordable Housing Trust fund created by city and county officials as an example.
Orazen was part of the Cleveland visit, which included a trip to the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University.
“It was one of the most exciting days I’ve ever had,” she said. “It let me know that we really can make a difference for people in this community.
“I’ve always hated solving a problem by just putting a Band-Aid on it, and the tremendous thing about this work is that we solve problems permanently. We find the solution that has worked in other places, and we put it into place.”