155 East Main St., Kent, Ohio 44240

Historyof the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County

County Agency has Long History of Stewardship

In 1968, people with vision in communities all across Ohio including Portage County believed there was a better way to care for persons with mental illnesses and addictions. Through new state laws, they worked to establish systems of local services.

Serving Portage County Cities, Villages and Townships for More Than 40 Years

The sweeping changes meant that children, teens and adults with problems could find the care they needed while remaining in their communities near family and friends. Individuals in crisis receive professional care, which makes communities healthier, safer places for all residents. Services have changed lives across Ohio as people who are receiving treatment for mental illness or substance abuse disorders go to work, school and care for their families every day.

Below click on the dates to read about Mental Health & Recovery Board achievements throughout the years.

MHRB Through the Years


The Portage County 648 Board, also known as the Portage County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board, is established after the passage of the state Community Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act. The first chairman was Horace A. Page, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Kent State University.


Suzanne H. Hetrick was appointed the first executive director. The Board’s first office was on the Kent State University campus and then moved to 225 E. College Ave., Kent. This was the first year services were provided through contracts with community agencies. Townhall II on College Avenue in Kent was one of the contract agencies. It was formed out of a merger that year of Town Hall II and the HELPLINE, a crisis phone service located on the KSU Campus. The other was Portage Family Counseling & Mental Health Center located in Kent.


Portage Children’s Center became part of the system. The Board moved to offices at 1640 Franklin Avenue in Kent. Voters passed the first levy, a 1-mill issue. By this time, more agencies had been added: Community House, Portage Information and Referral and what would later become known as Highland Home Health Care.


Coleman Professional Services was founded as the Kevin Coleman Mental Health Center and joined the system of services. This was the last year of contracts between the Board and Portage Family Counseling & Mental Health Center and Community House.


State Senate Bill 160 separated the Portage County Mental Health Board from the county Mental Retardation Board. The Board added Woman Shelter, Inc., to its agencies and also funded services through Big Brothers/Sisters of Portage County (one year only) and Community Action Council.


The Ohio Department of Mental Health funded the building of the Kevin Coleman Mental Health Center at 3920 Lovers Lane in Ravenna.


The Board initiated an evening outpatient program to treat adults with drug and alcohol dependency through Portage County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services in Ravenna. The Board chose a new provider for services to abused women and children: Safer Futures.


The state added provision of alcohol and drug addiction treatment services to the Board’s responsibilities. The state called the new boards Alcohol and Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Boards and a new state department, the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, was created to oversee Board services along with the Ohio Department of Mental Health. The Portage Teen Residential Treatment Center run by Portage Children’s Center was opened.


The Board was forced to make cuts in services and ended its contracts with Safer Futures and Community Action Council. Horizon House, a half way house for women recovering from addiction, was established with state funding from the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.


The Portage Board shortened its name to the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County.


The Board re-established funding to the Safer Futures shelter for victims of domestic violence, which had become a program of Family and Community Services of Portage County.


Board and agencies formed the Mental Health & Recovery Network, an alliance of organizations dedicated to effective, coordinated mental health and recovery services. The Kevin Coleman Mental Health Center opened the Coleman Professional Building at 5982 Rhodes Road in Kent. The Board expanded its contract with Family & Community Services to include counseling for families affected by domestic violence.


The Kevin Coleman Mental Health Center changed its name to Coleman Professional Services. 24-hour prescreening for the system was expanded from adults to include teens and children.


Townhall II merged with Portage County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services. The new organization retained the name “Townhall II.”


The Board kicked off the Family-to-Family Education program in Portage County. The Board coordinates the program, which was developed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The Bair Foundation was added as a contact agency to provide intensive in-home therapy for families with children who have mental illness.


Compass Recovery in Ravenna was added as an addiction treatment agency.


Suzanne H. Hetrick, Ph.D., retired as Executive Director. Associate Director Roberta O’Keefe, MPA, who was a Board employee for more than 30 years, replaced her. Voters passed a 1-mill replacement levy which was the first new local money coming to the system for 20 years. Townhall II moved downtown Kent to 155 N. Water Street. The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Portage County was established.


The Board moved its office to downtown Kent, 155 E. Main Street. The Sue Hetrick Building of Coleman Professional Services, located in Ravenna, was built in 2004 to house behavioral health services such as case management and psychiatry, as well as an evaluation and crisis department for Coleman Access Services.


The Mental Health & Recovery Board established The Crisis Intervention Team training for law enforcement. CIT is a program of NAMI.


Roberta O’Keefe, MPA, retired as Executive Director. Associate Director Harold V. Farrier, MPA. took over. The Portage County Crisis Intervention Team was established and conducted its first class.


Board and agencies provided treatment services to more than 6,000 county residents; caring for 2,000 children and teens and 4,000 adults; reaching more than 8,000 students with education; and handling 36,000 24-hour calls and contacts for crisis intervention, suicide prevention, information and screening for psychiatric hospitalization.


Joel Mowrey, Ph.D., became the new Associate Director. Officer Andy Suvada of the Streetsboro Police Department was named Portage County CIT Officer of the Year and Ohio CIT Officer of the Year. He was honored at a ceremony in Columbus. The MHRB with the leadership of Mrs. Carrie Suvada of Palmyra Township, a special education teacher at Waterloo Local School and wife of Andy established and conducted the first CIT Education Collaboration for school staff.


The number of Portage County adults and youth receiving treatment services continued to rise in 2009 by 5% to more than 7,000. More adults were treated for depression, bipolar disease, alcohol dependence and anxiety disorders. More young consumers received care for behavior that disrupted family life and education, conduct disorders, bipolar disease and ADHD. This was the first year in several decades where due to state cuts, the MHRB had to use reserve funds to balance its budget. Subsequently, the Board implemented cuts to live within its means, which meant fewer funds for services in the next fiscal year, 2010. The Board went through a retrenchment of its own administrative budget: reducing staff and limiting expenses.

Later in the year the Crisis Intervention Team had begun a new collaboration with the Portage County Sheriff’s Office.

The Board was named as a member of the Portage County Emergency Management Advisory Board which oversees the county response to disasters. The MHRB also gained a seat on the Portage County Local Emergency Planning Committee, which coordinates county wide planning for disasters involving hazardous materials. The collaboration with the two county groups started the Board's work to increase its capabilities to respond to large scale emergencies through the renamed mental health Incident Response Team.


The Mental Health & Recovery Board funded services to 2,750 children and youth and 4,800 adults through the agencies in its network. The Board continued to use reserve funds to maintain services levels as more county residents sought care.






Have a question? Click here to email our office.