SIDNEY — More than 50 people stood outside on a windy afternoon to attend the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for The Link on March 21. This new youth assessment center was established by the Shelby County Juvenile Court to provide prevention, early intervention, screening and assessment in areas of need for at-risk youth without the need for court intervention.
Jeff Raible from the Sidney-Shelby Chamber of Commerce, Judge Jeffrey Beigel, Commissioner Julie Ehemann, and Mayor Mardie Milligan spoke before the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Raible said that The Link will be “transformational and meaningful.”
Beigel credited much of the work for establishing The Link to Dawn Bailey and MacKenzie Lotz, women who he says “have the passion to make things happen.”
Ehemann thanked Beigel and his staff for making The Link a reality, and noted that this commitment is proof that “Shelby County works to save lives,” also emphasizing that “studies show one in five youth will experience a mental health challenge at some point in their life. It is important we have community resources available to help our youth through a mental health crisis. These services can help prevent drug abuse, family violence, and the tragedy of suicide.”
Milligan stressed that this is going to be a fabulous resource, but that “there is hard work ahead.”
Beigel and Ehemann held the ribbon, while Bailey and Lotz were given the honor of cutting it.
The Link is designed to prevent and divert youth from juvenile justice and child welfare systems though a single point of contact that identifies underlying issues contributing to concerning behavior. They also partner with youth and families to access individualized services and/or resources. The Link assesses youth who are struggling – emotionally, behaviorally, or socially- for indicators of mental health and substance use disorders, issues related to basic needs, history of traumatic experiences, indicators of human trafficking, and other areas of need. The Link will then connect families to community resources and follow- up to ensure that they are able to get connected to the appropriate referral sources. These services are free and voluntary; therefore youth do not need to be court- involved to utilize them. Families may self-refer by calling the Service Coordinator at The Link to request an appointment. Law enforcement, schools, and other community agencies can also make a referral by calling 937-658-6660 or sending an email to [email protected].
Beigel, of the Shelby County Juvenile Courts, previously announced that the Juvenile Court received a renewable two year RECLAIM grant from the Ohio Department of Youth Services for $300,000 for the establishment of the youth assessment center. The initial funding included two years of start-up costs for necessary hardware and technology as well as the hiring of a professional staff. The Link will operate as a separate division of the Juvenile Court.
The youth assessment center will work closely with collaborating organizations who express the need and support for The Link’s services, including the Shelby County Commissioners, Shelby County Department of Jobs & Family Services, Shelby County Family & Children First Council, Sidney City Schools, Midwest Regional Educational Service Center, Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services, Family Resource Center, Shelby County Victim Services as well as other service providers.
Lotz serves as administrator overseeing operations. Emily Gelhaus serves as director.
“This is a long-term project that we are happy to see come together. Our primary goal has been an effective, efficient and timely method for at-risk youth and families to obtain assistance from the resources available in our community. It is no secret that early intervention is essential in addressing those needs and The Link will enhance our community’s ability to do that. It can be an important asset for the community,” said Beigel.
“Chief Probation Officer McKenzie Lotz, Court Administrator Dawn Bailey, and Director Emily Gelhaus deserve special thanks for all of their hard work over the last few years to make this project a reality,” Beigel added.
Beigel also noted that the court owes a special thanks to Shelby County Commissioners Ehemann, Tony Bornhorst and Robert Guillozet, who have been instrumental in helping make this possible, with their enthusiastic support for the needs expressed by county agencies and organizations.
The Link is located at 1000 Milligan Court, Suite 102. It is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday with options available for evening appointments. Those interested in services are encouraged to call for an appointment. Walk-ins are also welcome.