Throughout much of the last century, people who struggled with alcohol and other drug addiction were thought to be “morally flawed” and/or “lacking in willpower.” As a result, society came to regard alcoholism and drug addiction as a moral failing rather than a health issue. Today, thanks to decades of scientific research, we know addiction is a disease that affects both brain and behavior. The Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services (ODADAS) was formed in 1989 as a Cabinet-level state agency to serve Ohio citizens with addictions. ODADAS battled through stigma to give Ohio access to a comprehensive network of alcohol, drug and gambling addiction prevention, treatment and recovery support services for nearly a quarter century.
The journey began Oct. 10, 1989, with passage of Amended Substitute House Bill 317 — the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Act. Prior to 1989, services were housed within multiple systems — the Bureau of Drug Abuse (BuDA) and the Bureau of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Recovery (BAAAR). One dozen County Councils on Alcoholism and 53 Community Mental Health and Mental Retardation Boards — known as “648 Boards” — preceded the current county Board structure. Luceille Fleming was recruited to lead ODADAS.
Under Director Fleming’s watch, Ohio established a reputation as a national leader in the delivery of quality, cost-effective addiction prevention, treatment and recovery support services. The successive leadership of directors Gary Tester, Carolyn J. Givens, Angela Cornelius-Dawson and Orman Hall helped to further cement Ohio’s exemplary standing among its peers. Cross-systems collaboration became the norm, and the Department invested in gender-specific and culturally-appropriate programming to best meet the needs of Ohioans. The Department continued to nurture long-standing partnerships with Ohio’s criminal justice, child welfare, education, employment and physical and behavioral health fields — always with an eye on technology, efficiency and accountability.
Throughout its history, ODADAS gave help and hope to millions of Ohio’s most fragile citizens. Under the umbrella of OhioMHAS, that work continues to promote access to an integrated system of care with a goal of saving even more lives and promoting safe, healthy and productive families and communities.