Leonard returns to the leadership of ASAP. to retire
When Doug Leonard stepped down as CEO of Columbus Regional Hospital in 2007 to head the Indiana Hospital and Health Association, some say he avoided a major disaster. Just a year later, a massive flood caused millions in damage to the hospital, which began a massive renovation project to restore the facility.
But years later, Leonard found himself back in Columbus, dealing with dangerous and far-reaching problems – this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on people in the community who were in recovery.
The virus emerged less than a year after retired Leonard, who retired from the association, was named executive director of the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress. Launched in 2017, ASAP is a community-wide response to address substance use disorders, including the opioid crisis, in Bartholomew County.
“It brought the whole system to a standstill,” Leonard said of the impact the pandemic had on the organization. “When we had to close the HUB facility, we had to find alternative ways to keep people available. We had a connection point on our website for those who wanted to reach us. We monitored it and immediately reported to the people. “
But many recovering addicts don’t have computers or smartphones suitable for video conferencing, so that option wasn’t typically available, he said. Treatment centers and recovery sessions also had to be closed.
The virus caused a significant setback for people with an addiction disorder, leading to an increase in addiction relapses, he said.
“These people are probably the weakest because if they had a job they would have probably lost it,” said Leonard. “If they had a home, they could have lost it. With the depression and anxiety we have seen a corresponding number of overdoses. “
Thirty Bartholomew County residents died of overdose in 2020 – the highest number of overdose deaths since at least 2015, according to coroner’s statistics.
However, as Leonard prepares to be replaced by Sherri Jewett, a former senior executive at several psychiatric and substance-dependent hospitals on July 30, he said he believes ASAP has regained a foothold as the pandemic progressed.
All the staff at the hub, who help individuals navigate complex recovery routes, were back at work in mid-February after all employees received their vaccinations. The hub’s resources include referencing existing programs, securing financial assistance for recovery, and, if necessary, helping with food, shelter, and transportation for recovering addicts.
Leonard says the number of people using the hub at the Doug Otto Center at 1531 13th St. has not yet reached pre-COVID levels, he said.
“The people we serve often don’t keep up with the news,” said Leonard. “It’s hard to reach them to let them know we’re open. But we hope they learn from word of mouth. “
The hub has still managed to open 310 new cases and has attracted 29 active volunteers since it opened. Although the number of people using the facility has not yet increased to pre-COVID levels, Leonard believes word of mouth will gradually increase usage.
Leonard said he is also pleased that ASAP has contracted Ascension Recovery Services of Morgantown, West Virginia, to develop a toolkit that could serve as a step-by-step guide for anyone looking to set up a sober home.
Her staff spent over a year speaking to “stakeholders” Leonard names (landlords, churches, township trustees, homeless shelters, etc.) to see what can be done to help those recovering from addictions To temporarily accommodate them so they aren’t forced to return to the same environment and the same people who led to their addiction, Leonard said.
As a result, there are now 10 sobriety or rest homes in the Columbus area, including three that are managed by ASAP, he said. These facilities offer safe living and supportive and structured living conditions for people who have just been released from drug rehabilitation programs.
“There are many different flavors and customers are tailored to what works for them,” said Leonard.
Despite their differences, Sobriety’s home directors meet monthly to discuss solutions to common problems, while recovery sessions have resumed for those in recovery, Leonard said. In addition, ASAP has also had some success in finding employers willing to hire sober home residents, he said.
Although Leonard has often called the ASAP employees the best he has ever worked with, he hesitates to acknowledge himself for the progress made over the past few years.
“I was fortunate that all of the pre-planning was completed and the community came up with a brilliant plan under the direction of Jeff Jones (former ASAP interim director),” said Leonard.
He recalled taking great inspiration from the planning before retiring from the State Hospital Association in June 2017.
“I actually shared the plan with other hospitals in Columbus,” said Leonard. “I said this is a great model being developed for you to consider in your own community.”
Leonard compared the 2019 acquisition of ASAP to handing over the keys to a new bus built by someone else and asking to take it for the first test drive.
When asked what has made him most proud at ASAP over the past two years, Leonard responded with a one-word answer – collaboration.
“We don’t look for anything and we don’t care about anything we do,” said Leonard. “Our role is to help the system grow and prosper, and our eyes have been wide open to work with everyone (to offer substance abuse treatment).”
Leonard hands over the reins of organization to Jewett just weeks before the city and district councils begin hearings on next year’s financial budget. But he isn’t worried about financial cuts as support for drug abuse recovery program funding appears to remain high among local elected officials, he said.
“All of the feedback I’ve received is that the community is very happy to have ASAP and that they like the way we do our job,” said Leonard. “This is really an extraordinary thing because I know churches across the state are grappling with the same problem. But there is almost no community that has done something like Columbus. “
Although Leonard says he will be satisfied to retire on August 1st, he assured that he will make himself available to ASAP as an unpaid advisor if the organization thinks it could use his services.
Where can you find out more
To learn more about ASAP, visit asapbc.org.
“All of the feedback I’ve received is that the community is very happy to have ASAP and that they like the way we do our job. This is really an extraordinary thing because I know churches across the state are facing the same problem. But there is almost no community that has done something like Columbus. “
– Doug Leonard, ASAP managing director