Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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Board leader steady during trying times




Tom Bartlett's job for years has been framed by detailed numbers, statistical reports, and complex budgets.

But the best progress report these days from the new head of the Lucas County Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services board is one that can't be measured in dollar signs or converted to a pie chart.

It is of the countless many neighbors, employers, and loved ones in the area who have kicked drugs or fought back alcoholism - those who have been "converted from consuming taxpayer dollars to contributing to taxpayers' dollars," as Mr. Bartlett likes to say.

"Once they become successful, they become invisible," Mr. Bartlett said from his eighth- floor office, a smile breaking across his face during what has otherwise been a somber discussion about the challenges facing addicts. "They are our success. They are why we keep doing this."

Mr. Bartlett, who was chosen from more than 30 applicants, takes the helm of the Lucas County ADAS board - he replaces long-time director Jay Salvage - at a critical crossroads.

The agency is trying to stave off political pressure to be combined with the Lucas County Mental Health Board, and it has put on hold a third levy request after two failed attempts.

But those who have worked with Mr. Bartlett say they're not worried.

Mr. Bartlett, known for his skill at budgeting, also understands the human side of leading an organization and delivering resources to people in need, they said.

"They wouldn't have chosen him for the job if he were a bean-counter," said Mr. Salvage, who had no part in the selection process but was consulted about his work with Mr. Bartlett.

Mr. Bartlett has been integral in discussions about policy and priorities of ADAS, said Mr. Salvage, who left last year to lead the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northwest Ohio.

Mr. Bartlett, a former Anderson's manager and owner of Toledo Engraving Co., has served on the boards of the United Way, the Family Service of Northwest Ohio, and Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center.

"I think I have a responsibility to give back to my community," he said.

Before coming to ADAS in 2000, the father of two was the chief financial officer of COMPASS, another service for addicts and one of the providers linked with ADAS.

ADAS, which now employs one part-time and eight full-time employees, is responsible for assessing Lucas County's treatment and prevention needs and prioritizing its challenges. The Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services relies on ADAS's expertise, in large part, to determine the funding to local service providers.

So though he is behind-the-scenes, Mr. Bartlett is very much responsible for the posters that warn against drug use, the staff who talk to children in school about the dangers of alcohol, or the public awareness campaigns that warn parents about hosting parties for underage drinkers, and of course, much of the system that provides services to addicts and alcoholics.

Often, that means working with the Lucas County Mental Health board, Children Services, and other agencies.

In short, it's about juggling and connecting a lot of resources.

"He is clear-headed," said Phyllis Endicott, chairman of the ADAS board. "He searches out information. He's decisive, but he also can take advice."

Mr. Bartlett also has something else going for him, a measured personality that makes him both approachable and formidable in both board rooms and political arenas, both Mr. Salvage and Ms. Endicott said.

"He knows when to talk and when not to talk, and what to say and what not to say," Mr. Salvage said.

For his part, Mr. Bartlett is also the kind of person who repeatedly swerves conversation about himself to the success and challenges of ADAS. And there are statistics - numbers that show that parents talking to their children about addiction greatly reduces the child's risk of experimenting with them, figures that show a dip in drug use among youth these days, and numbers that speak to the cost of addiction in our community.

"It would be nice for some of us to say to ourselves that this is a poverty problem or a problem only in certain neighborhoods, and it would be easy to look at the guy that's stumbling down the street drunk and say it's only his problem," Mr. Bartlett said.

"But it's a problem for all of us. This is a community-wide challenge, and we all need to understand that."

Contact Robin Erb at:

or 419-724-6133.

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