#AdvocacyMatters: A Seat at the Table

February 25, 2022

Mental Health is a critical component of overall heath, and more than 25% of Ohioans have been diagnosed with a mental illness. While there are different diagnoses under the umbrella of “mental illness”, the stigma surrounding these two words present near-unanimous barriers and challenges between the access to and availability of programs and those who need them. Even with high-profile public awareness campaigns to end isolation and amplify the commonness of mental health needs many live in silence, while others choose not to avail themselves to services.

People with a mental illness have a right to live and work where they choose; to have friends; and to make decisions about their lives and their futures. Unfortunately, many people with a mental illness face discrimination, segregation and lack of control over even the most basic activities of everyday living. The responsibility in identifying these disparities and dismantling these barriers falls on all of us.

Disability Rights Ohio is the federally authorized and state designated protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities in Ohio, including those with mental illness. Part of this includes the creation of an advisory council to inform and guide DRO on issues facing those with mental illness. Our “Protection and Advocacy System for Individuals with Mental Illness” (PAIMI) Advisory Council does just this.

The PAIMI Advisory Council is made up of Ohioans with lived mental health experiences, whether through their professional or personal lives. The majority of the council members are people who have received or are currently receiving mental health services. In all aspects of our work, we believe that the people impacted by services and policies deserve to be in impactful seats at the tables where decisions are made. This is why the PAIMI Advisory Council is an invaluable part of our mental health advocacy. The council advises Disability Rights Ohio on priorities and issues important to people receiving mental health services in Ohio, and promotes recovery through increased access to client rights and advocacy services.

Jenni Barnhart Mohler serves on DRO’s Board of Directors and as Secretary for our PAIMI Advisory Council. “Our goal is to ultimately promote recovery efforts for Ohio citizens with mental illness by bringing the challenges they face to the table,” she said. “It has been encouraging to see firsthand that mental illness does not define a person and that recovery is possible.”

Perhaps the most exciting part of the council is the meaningful opportunity to be involved. Currently there are five open seats on the council, and anyone who is a resident of Ohio is eligible to apply. The PAIMI Advisory Council is required to have at least one representative from the following categories and is committed to upholding and expanding diversity in its membership:

  • People who have received mental health services
  • A parent of a minor child who has received mental health services
  • Attorney
  • Mental Health Professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, nurse)
  • Mental Health Service Provider
  • Other professionals, friends, advocates and members of the general public who have demonstrated substantial commitment to improving mental health services and who have knowledge about people who are labeled as mentally ill

You can learn more about our PAIMI Advisory Council, its mission, its members, and opportunities to become involved by visiting disabilityrightsohio.org/paimi-advisory-council. Because every member of the council – like all of us – believe that #AdvocacyMatters, we’ll keep partnering to shine the light, sound the alarms, and work tirelessly to raise the issues facing every Ohioan with mental illness.

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