By Shawn D. Holt
Maryhaven President & CEO
Meeting people where they are in their lives. That seems the best way to describe my approach to serving as president and CEO of Maryhaven. I believe Maryhaven should help people recover hope in their lives, lead the kind of research and innovation that overcomes the complexities of mental illness and addiction, and serve people with a passion that comes from deep within our hearts.
That approach flows naturally from my personal and professional experiences. I was born to a 16-year old mom and never really knew my father. The first in my family to attend and graduate from college, I started my career as a youth leader at Buckeye Ranch. There I really developed a love for working with young people who were struggling to get past many difficult issues and circumstances — maybe because it came home to me that I could have been one of those kids if I hadn’t had love or advocates or positive guidance.
I carried that spirit through my work with Franklin County Children’s Services, as state director of the National Youth Advocate Program and as CEO of the St. Vincent Family Center. Coming to Maryhaven in August of 2016 has brought me full circle in terms of working with the whole continuum of care in social and behavioral health services.
Maryhaven, too, has come full circle. This amazing resource began in 1953 as a haven for women struggling with substance abuse and it morphed over the years into a provider of a full range of mental health services. Now, the opioid epidemic has once again brought us back to a clear focus on substance abuse disorders.
One element hasn’t changed – recovery happens only with hope. As we remodel our facility, one of the first words people will see when they walk into the building will be “hope.” It’s much more than a symbol. We want everyone – patients, families, staff – to make Maryhaven a place where dreams reshape and come to life, where we believe that a better life is always possible and we look to each person to help define what a better life means to him or her. To give hope, we have to see that if someone doesn’t have a home, maybe treatment is not their greatest need right now. They need a place to live. That’s meeting them where they are.
Restoring hope requires a lot of the second element of our mission, innovation. The Maryhaven Addiction Research Institute has led the way in this area since 2001, continuously pursuing new behavioral and medication-based treatments for addiction.
And research isn’t purely about science. It’s also about changing and opening minds. We have a renewed focus on removing the stigma that often drags down people with mental illness or substance abuse issues. I was part of a panel discussion recently and one panelist observed that we don’t look down on or shun people with diabetes or breast cancer. Removing the stigma associated with mental illness and addiction disorders will elevate the chances of successful recovery.
The third element is passion. I want everyone at Maryhaven to feel energized and inspired to respond to our community when they need us. To be the friend they can call on when their lives look darkest.
And this means being accessible all the time. That’s why one of my first steps in becoming CEO was to revisit our intake and assessment processes. During my days as a caseworker at children’s services, I referred a lot of my clients to Maryhaven. The answer I got back from my clients was that if they didn’t call before 8 o’clock in the morning, they couldn’t get into treatment. When I got here, I asked if that was still the way things were done and found out it was. So one of our first things was to open that up. People can now get help when they’re ready for it. We even do assessments on the weekends. Not only is that a better practice, it’s reduced the waiting list for people to get in.
So in just about 700 words, those are my goals as Maryhaven’s CEO. Hope, research and innovation and passion are integral to Maryhaven making a difference for those we serve.