ONE ON ONE | Nickola Ceglia Social service leader learned early to keep a chair empty

For somebody who might not know, can you give a brief description of what Trumbull LifeLines does?
Trumbull LifeLines is the county agency that plans, funds, evaluates and monitors behavioral health-care services for the county. We have 88 counties in the state, and 57 of those have alcohol, drug and mental health boards. LifeLines is an alcohol, drug and mental health board that oversees, plans, evaluates and monitors the services. We contract with both public and private agencies to provide the services.
How did you get into the social services industry?
When at Kent, there was a lady who was encouraging me to go to graduate school in Washington, D.C., or Boston in social work. I wrote a paper on runaways that was a decent paper, and I did some volunteer work in shelter care in a boys group home type of thing. She kind of saw something in me and encouraged me. She said, 'Why do you want to stay in Trumbull County?' Because I wanted to go to school at Case or Ohio State and come back to Warren. She said I could go anywhere and I said, 'No, Trumbull County's home. Trumbull County is at least where I think I need to be.' I've always had a strong sense of community. The community has done a lot for me, and I just felt I owed the community something in return. But it all started with that runaway paper.
What do you like best about Trumbull County?
You have to like the people and the community.
After all this time in the social services industry, do you find it rewarding?
Oh, you have to. I'm at a different level now. I'm not in direct practice where I am working with clients, patients, consumers one on one. But I'm more in an area where I can help the system change, the system care. We talk in our field not just about agencies but really about a system of care. People in Trumbull County need to recognize that we have one of the best systems of care available in the state. We hear it from various state departments in Columbus that other counties would die for the high level of collaboration, cooperation with our agencies and with agencies outside of our system.
There's a Lifelines levy on the November ballot. What do you hope people know or think about as they go to cast their vote?
One, I really hope they take a look at issues. I hope if they don't know what Lifelines is, they ask. We're going to do a concerted effort at marketing what it is that we do. We went through a name change a couple of years ago before I came here. We used to be the Trumbull County Board of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health. Our board came up with Lifelines. I think it's a great name. It does signify we are a lifeline to folks that are hurting with emotional problems, substance abuse problems, family problems, etc. I hope the name is clearly recognized now. We need money to fund those agencies that provide the service. We've had a $2 million budget deficit in the state of Ohio. Our particular system took over $1 million worth of cuts from the state this year. We need the levy, No. 1, to bring back many services that we've lost over the last year or so.
If you weren't in your current profession, what would you be?
It's easy. If you look around this room. I'd be a cowboy in Wyoming.
How do you spend your time when you're not working?
The first week in September [last week] I'm going to head out to Yellowstone. There's a group of us. There's a couple of physicians over at Trumbull and some others professionals. We get a group of us, and we put 50 pounds on our backs and we hike.
Is there anyone who's been an inspiration, a hero or a role model for you?
My parents and grandparents have been my heroes.
I think in terms of being an inspiration, their whole emphasis on family. They grew up in an ethnic Italian neighborhood and church and the whole nine yards. Your faith was important, and your house and your community was important. They sent me to Humility of Mary Sisters, and I think I got a decent education and upbringing, but what was important was that there was always an empty chair. Somebody could come over and get fed, taken care of and my parents still -- they're in the 70s now -- they'll help the neighborhood. 'So-and-so needs this, we have to help so-and-so with that.' I grew up in a family that teaches you to take care of one another and we are our brother's keeper.

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