By William K. Alcorn
Ronald A. Marian, described as the “face ... and the heart” of the Mahoning County Mental Health Board, said he enjoys coming to work even after 40 years with the agency.
“It’s creative, and it’s not mundane. But, it is time to leave,” said Marian, 72, who last week announced that his target date for retiring as executive director of the mental-health board is April 1, 2014.
Marian said he has a target rather than a firm date for retirement because he has yet to meet face-to-face with Public Employee Retirement System officials to sort out his options.
But were he to have retired Dec. 5, Marian, who is paid $66.43 per hour, would have received $63,773 for 960 hours of his 2,286 hours of unused sick leave and $20,892 for 314.5 hours of unused vacation time, a rounded off total of $84,665.
Next year, Marian will have been with the agency for 40 years, four years as its community-relations director and the last 36 as executive director.
“Ron Marian has been the face, and most importantly the heart of the Mahoning County Mental Health Board for as long as most of us can remember,” said Laura Lyden, sales and operations manager of the Lyden Oil Co. and former board president.
“Mahoning County has been truly fortunate to have such a dedicated and caring individual at the helm for all of these years. I saw Ron, and his excellent staff, go above and beyond the call of duty numerous times.”
“He practices what he preaches and has been a staunch advocate for mental-health care in our Valley, our state and our nation. He has set a fine example for us all to follow — and left big shoes to fill,” said Lyden, who is head of the board’s search committee to find Marian’s replacement.
Marian, born and raised on the city’s East and North sides, was educated here and spent nearly all of his adult life living and working in Youngstown.
As a child and young man, he acquired a love for the community — he still lives in Youngstown — and for baseball.
A 1959 graduate of Ursuline High School, he played Little League, Pony League and Class B baseball as a youth and “every position but catcher” for four years at Youngstown University “under the great Coach Dom Rosselli.”
After graduating in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Youngstown University, before it became Youngstown State University, Marian, finding jobs hard to come by here, worked in Cleveland as an insurance underwriter.
While in Cleveland, he lived in the same apartment complex as did several then Cleveland Indians players, including outfielder Tito Francona.
“I pitched Wiffle balls to Terry Francona [Tito’s son], who hit them into the pool,” Marian said.
Terry Francona, first-year manager of the Cleveland Indians, is the 2013 American League Manager of Year.
Marian returned to Youngstown to become the local United Way’s community-relations director and discovered “this is me. I like helping people.”
He returned to college, earned a master’s degree in business administration and counseling from YSU, and in 1974 was named community-relations director for the mental-health board and four years later became its director.
When the 1968 federal mental-health act was passed, Mahoning County had a mental-health levy, which meant it had local matching funds available to attract federal money.
Then-Ohio Sen. Harry Meshel was instrumental in making sure funds were available to Mahoning County for mental-health facilities, Marian said.
“As a result, we have the finest mental-health and addiction-treatment facilities for a county our size in the state,” he said.
“As I look back on my career, there are so many innovative and exciting programs that the MCMHB has had a hand in developing to help the residents of Mahoning County lead healthier lives,” Marian said.
Children with mental-health issues had gotten lost in Ohio, Marian said, so the Mahoning County Mental Health Board developed D&E Counseling Center, which provides programs for children and families.
The mental-health board expanded the Burdman Group into a residential and vocational program for adults with mental-health issues; and supported the merger of the Burdman Group with Family Services Agency to create Compass Family and Community Services in 2012 “which solidified our primary family-resource provider,” Marian said.
In 2003, the mental-health board initiated the merger of Parkview Counseling and Eastern Mental Health center into Turning Point Counseling Services, thereby creating a comprehensive system of care for adults. And in partnership with the then Ohio Department of Mental Health, the mental-health board purchased the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County’s Northside Branch and converted it into a drop-in center operated by Help Hotline Crisis Center for mental-health consumers.
He said the board also provides funding for Meridian Services, a catalyst for providing addiction services in Mahoning County.
“Perhaps one of our finest achievements was taking Help Hotline from a $1,500-a-year answering support service to a multi-million-dollar operation that is the cornerstone of the county’s mental-health system,” Marian said.
And, Marian said, within the next few months, the mental-health board and the Mahoning County Alcohol & Drug Addiction Services Board will merge.
“The biggest part of my job has been convincing agencies to work together. If you don’t, you are lost,” he said.
“Ron Marian created a client-centered recovery system before it became the new buzzword. People in Mahoning County living with mental illness and their families have some of the best facilities and programs in the state. This is due to Ron Marian’s ability to network and get things done,” said Duane J. Piccirilli, Help Hotline chief executive officer.
“Under Ron’s leadership, the mental-health community functions as a team, and there were never any adversarial relationships between the board members and staff and the contract agencies.
“When I came to Help Hotline over 21 years ago, Ron told me on my first day of work: ‘Treat every day like Election Day. You have to work as hard servicing your clients and their families every day as you do to get the levy passed on Election Day.’ That philosophy speaks volumes for Ron Marian’s passion for the consumers he serves,” Piccirilli said.
Marian said his theory is “you can’t sit here in your office. You have to be out in the local community and become known at the state level. That is how you make contacts and friends for mental-health programs.”
Tracy J. Plouck, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said that under Marian’s leadership, the Mahoning County Mental Health Board has “achieved a rich history of partnerships which have resulted in meaningful assistance for residents of the Mahoning Valley. I wish Ron the best in his retirement and will miss working with him.”
In a letter to his board, Marian praised “the thousands of dedicated men and women on the mental-health front lines for their work for the betterment of others in this community” and thanked them and the “extraordinary board members and volunteers who give their time and selves because they cared about a greater cause” for the privilege of being a part of their efforts.
He also gave a “heartfelt thank you to the voters of Mahoning County for trusting us with your hard-earned dollars and for recognizing that some in our society need a hand up in order to succeed. We couldn’t have had success without your votes.”