Ronald Todd II, the minority affairs liaison for Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and a pastor, dialed into Thursday’s Highland County Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition meeting to discuss ways to improve outreach to minority communities in prevention and treatment programs.
Coalition president Creed Culbreath asked Todd, “How do we reach out intentionally and compassionately to minority communities in prevention and treatment? The reason why I ask that — my chair coordinator said, ‘Each community’s different in the way they need to be approached.’”
“People need to know that you care,” Todd replied. “It doesn’t have to be that complicated, and how you show you care is by building the relationship up. That means that you have to be consistent, and they have to see that you really care. I think a lot of times, as experts, we try to make it too complicated. Show them that you really care, that you want to help — to me, it’s as simple as that.”
Todd also emphasized that the keys are to develop relationships with communities and community leaders, to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and to be able to talk to one another.
“With the COVID-19, other things are happening. It’s like basically pulling a scab off a wound. There are so, so many issues here that we can deal with, but the key is to be able to talk with each other, being able to have dialog,” Todd said. “Go where you’re uncomfortable. Especially here in the U.S., we want to stay comfortable, but for you to grow, you have to get out and get uncomfortable.”
Todd said that as the minority affairs liaison for a Republican governor, he knew he would have to go “where Republicans didn’t go.”
“I reached out to areas, and I just developed relationships with them, giving them chances to get to know me as I got to know them,” Todd said. “That’s been very successful, and I was very intentional with that — going to the places, meeting with the leaders there, meeting with the people, being accessible to the communities — that’s what we’ve done in our office.”
Todd said DeWine was very intentional about his cabinet selections as well.
“We have one of the most racially diverse cabinets,” Todd said. “The head of the corrections office is an African American female. The head of [the department of] aging — African American female. The head of the National Guard — African American male. The head of RecoveryOhio — African American female. The head of IT — African American male. Governor DeWine has been very intentional with putting qualified people in from all different backgrounds and cultures.”
Quick Response Team (QRT) member Larry Parker said QRT has also been working with community members of color in Highland County, including clergy members.
“I know as far as our agency’s concerned, at QRT, we’re doing the best that we can do to be diverse,” Parker said. “A lot of the people of color in our county are not in trouble with drugs in comparison — we don’t have a whole lot who come across to us, but we want to be diverse, and it’s important to us to do that. There’s so much wisdom to be gained from other people’s eyes and the way that other people take a look.”
Culbreath added, “Of our team of four, one is female, and there are three other women who are in training for one role or another, either as a peer counselor or medical specialist, and I think that makes a great deal of difference. The more that a person who answers the door or who is seen in a hospital room can identify with a member of the team, the easier and more productive the discussion.”
Todd commended coalition members for being intentional and asking questions in hopes of improving.
“You can only do, just be more intentional — reach out a little more to the folks and just talk,” Todd said. “Highland County’s a little bit different, from what I recall from when I came and spoke about the DNA in Highland County, that was an area where the Underground Railroad was and some of the slaves came to live to get away. The folks of Highland County, the DNA, the culture there is a little bit different — you wanted to make a difference. There’s a rich history in Highland County. You have to also tap into that too.”
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.