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about. She received a call, asking her if she was interested in applying for a position as a director with the Lima UMADAOP. After praying on it, Miss Myrtle decided to apply and her experience and education landed her the job. The opportunity came with a series of challenges. “When I got there,” she says, “the agency was in trouble. Money was tight...I came here having to dig that agency out. We had a budget of only $250,000. I'll never forget it.” Though she was contending with low funds and lost staffing, the center trudged on. Remaining employees made sacrifices of salary so that they could continue to provide care, and grants were sought to keep them afloat. Their diligence paid off, and the program was able to rebound and grow. Miss Myrtle added additional facilities and opportunities for prevention and recovery. One such facility was known as ‘The Phoenix Project.’ “The Phoenix Project was not just about housing and recovery and giving them a place to get better, but it was like looking at self-esteem. It was looking at workforce development. It was looking at parenting. It was looking at any of those skills that a woman may have forgotten or lost.” The Lima UMADAOP would be hard-pressed to find a leader as devoted as Miss Myrtle. When speaking of her role in community prevention and treatment, she is quick to point out that the ability to help should not be a competition. She says, “I believe that if truly we are about the business of helping people to get better, then I will move to make sure that a person gets what they need, whether it's with me or not...So if a woman was to come to us, and we find that there may be a much stronger need for mental health recovery and support, and we didn't have that, then it was our responsibility to make sure that she got where she needed because ultimately it was about her getting better, because when she gets better, her children get better. And when her children get better, generations of families are affected by just starting with one person.” Miss Myrtle also addressed the interconnection between addiction and mental health

awareness. “We have so many people of color that struggle with depression or struggle with other mental health issues that don't come forward because of the stigma. You know, sometimes because of environmental or situational trauma, you can find yourself feeling depressed. Anybody and everybody can have depression.” Now boasting 9 accredited recovery houses along with offices and facilities under her organization, Miss Myrtle finds herself pulled to help even further. Her dream is to open an inpatient facility specializing in the addiction treatment for pregnant women. She points out the hurdles and liabilities behind treating this population too often result in the mother and baby not getting the help they need. “When a person, a woman, male, whatever, makes a decision to change their life and get better if we don't get them in that window will lose them. So I'm telling you, if it takes us five to six days, having her jump through all of these hoops to say she can even come through the door, we lose her because guess what? All it takes is one knock at the door.” “What I love about prevention is that there's hope”. There are ways in which we can all help turn the tables and help those in our families and communities struggling with addiction. Miss Myrtle suggests: “Every program that's out there that's working with these families could always use donations, sometimes even donations as far as shoes, coats, gloves, it doesn't always have to be monetary. Volunteer. Vote. Vote for what's important. When it talks about alcohol or drugs and mental health, vote because those things help bring resources into the community. And educate yourself. I don't think there's a family in the United States that's not affected by addiction. The healthier the family, the more knowledgeable the family, the more knowledgeable and aware the community is, the better the opportunity for recovering addicts to get better.”

HOPE IN PREVENTION AND RECOVERY

LIMA UMADAOP CEO

For the past 33 years, the field of addiction recovery has been in the life blood of Myrtle Boykin-Lighton. CEO of the Lima, Ohio Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program

her experience pulled her into a series of other community programs. “This was around the time of the crack cocaine scene- they were calling it the war on drugs. They put me in a program called ‘Project U-turn’, and we did outreach, helping people that were struggling with crack cocaine addiction and helping them find treatment, but we were using that as a way to work with the children- to give them coping skills, to give them the things to be successful, even if they were living in the house with someone that was struggling with addiction. It was also an avenue for us to help make sure some of the children in the neighborhood were eating dinner. I run a program like that still today and it is still successful.” After 12 years spent working her way up to associate director, family needs called to her to take some time off. It wasn’t long before a new opportunity presented itself that allowed for her to get back into a field she was passionate

(UMADAOP), Myrtle found herself in the field of addiction prevention and recovery almost accidentally. “I actually came into this field by way of volunteering. My children were in a prevention after school program. I was one of those parents who participated...anytime my kids were involved in something, I wanted to be sure of the adults that were around them. And so I was really involved in that.” After much time spent as a volunteer, Miss Myrtle was asked to come on board and help with a support group geared towards women around self-esteem and prevention. From here,

Myrtle is the CEO and Director of UMADAOP in Lima, Ohio. More information about the organization, its prevention and recovery efforts, and how you can help can be found at www.limaumadaop.com.

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