WEST LIBERTY – Tammy Nicholl will take over as the executive director of the Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol Services (MHDAS) Board of Logan and Champaign Counties this spring.
The MHDAS board provides oversight and helps to fund quality programs to fulfill needs in the community in the areas of mental health, drug and alcohol services.
Nicholl has worked with the board for 12-and-a-half years as the director of service systems. In this position, she said, her role was to look at the continuum of services from prevention to recovery support, treatment and to find gaps in service.
Dr. David Higgins, executive director of MHDAS, is retiring from the position on May 14. Higgins has been with the board for 13 and a half years.
“Working with the community and building the partnerships I think was really important,” Higgins said of his time as director. “Tammy and I have done a whole lot of that and so has (director of community development) Stacey Logwood.”
“What I’ve learned over the years is that these are two great communities,” Higgins said. “There’s great people in the community that will look at a problem, focus on it and try to come up with solutions. People step up to help and when we go to somebody and we say ‘we need help’ we’ve always been able to find people willing to help us move forward and deal with community problems.”
Higgins said one of the big roles for him as director was his interest in Recovery Zone, which provides a recovery support center for adults in mental illness and addiction recovery.
“When I first started they met on the second floor of a small apartment in West Liberty with five to eight people,” Higgins said. “Now there’s two Recovery Zones, one in Champaign County, one in Logan County and both of them have over 50 members.”
Higgins said he started looking at retirement over the last couple of years. Knowing that Nicholl was a person they wanted to be director, a transition plan was put in place.
“We’ve slowly been building toward this so that when I retire we have somebody internally ready to step up and continue what we were doing,” Higgins said.
“I would say at least in the last five years – if not more than that – that’s kind of been the thought that when David retired that I would consider taking on the executive director position,” Nicholl said.
Speaking about Nicholl, Higgins said she has a passion for her job, a drive to succeed and a focus on what’s best for the community.
“I think that’s been awesome and David’s been great to involve me in a lot of things for a number of years now,” Nicholl said of the transition. “Where somebody new would have to build relationships with the major partners in both communities I have been able to be involved with a lot of those folks already.”
As Nicholl makes the transition, she said a major focus for the treatment system is getting in line with new behavioral health redesign and revamping of how payment processes for behavioral health happens.
Higgins said Nicholl has been at the forefront of leading the fight against opioid abuse through the Community C.O.R.E. team and Champaign County Opiate Task Force.
Nicholl said she is looking forward to being able to provide hope as community need assessments have shown mental health and addiction are at the top of the list for concerns in the community over the last few years.
“Being able to create a sense and promote a sense of hope in our community is one thing I want to try to do,” Nicholl said.
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.