Carolyn Givens is former head of state addiction dept.

By William K. Alcorn


Neil Kennedy Recovery Clinic has stood the test of time, and it boasts state-of-the-art programs that help people recover from alcohol and drug addiction, officials said.

But, said Carolyn Givens, Neil Kennedy’s new executive director, given the state of the health care industry, with managed-care companies making medical decisions, Neil Kennedy has to remain financially competitive; make sure the staff has the proper credentials; and be diverse enough to qualify for and attract insurance care, including Ohio’s expanded Medicaid populations.

Critical to the clinic’s future is the ability to cultivate partnerships with health organizations, such as One Health Ohio, area physicians and other area behavioral health agencies so they feel comfortable referring clients to the main campus in Youngstown and a facility in Howland, Givens said.

Givens, 58, took over leadership of NKRC on Jan. 5. She replaced Jerry Carter, who retired after 38 years with Neil Kennedy, a subsidiary of Gateway Rehab. She is former director of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.

Givens, who grew up in the Marietta area and has extended family and friends in the Steubenville area, said she is familiar with many of the mental-health and addiction-services organizations and leaders in the Mahoning Valley from her 16 years at ODADAS.

Immediately before coming to Neil Kennedy, Givens was executive director of the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, where her duties included oversight and responsibility for strategic leadership, financial development, building statewide alliances with legislative, policy and business leaders, as well as day-to-day operation of the foundations.

She said her job with OSPF was to promote suicide prevention as a public-health issue and eliminate the stigma and shame families often face after a suicide.

“My work — my passion — is to help people with behavioral health issues,” said Givens, a graduate of Ohio Dominican University and Harvard University’s Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government.

“Thirty years of research proves that brain illnesses of substance-use disorder, addiction, depression and other mental illnesses are treatable,” she said.

For addiction treatment, Givens said NKRC’s mission is caring for the body, mind and spirit of a person through detoxification, short- to long-term housing, or “sober houses,” as she calls them.

The goal is to provide therapies that are necessary to restoring quality of life for patients.

Givens said she expects another housing facility to eventually join Neil Kennedy’s Gelbman House.

Gelbman is a new, 12-bed recovery house where patients live while they get outpatient counseling and other nonmedical behavioral services that enhance their chance of recovery after detoxification.

The sober house is a place to start, once a patient’s mind starts to heal, to integrate life skills, such as job placement, that can lead to a better quality of life, Givens said.

It’s about taking the next step, another component in the healing process in which patients can work and reunite with family and be productive citizens again, she said.

“Also, we need to be able to promote positive mental-health attitude in the general public,” she said.

“I don’t know that there is anyplace I’d rather be, professionally and personally, than here, where I am privileged to work with the dedicated and skillful staff at Neil Kennedy and community partners,” she said.

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