SUPPORT, EDUCATION AND ADVOCACY
NAMI Ohio and MIND Movement Launch Summer Bus Tour
The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio (NAMI Ohio) and the MIND (Mental Illness-No Discrimination) Movement are leading a bus tour that gives community members and the media the opportunity to speak with representatives from local and state level mental health organizations. The aim of the bus tour is to end discrimination against people living with mental illnesses and their families by providing information about mental illness to the public. Discrimination is a major barrier to those who are seeking help for their mental illness and negatively impacts a person’s decision to seek treatment.
This summer, the NAMImobile will be visiting over 100 communities in Ohio and will be advocating for approximately 2.9 million Ohioans who experience a mental health disorder. For times and locations, please follow @namiohio on Twitter.
Columbus Dispatch Article features the Ridges Cemetery project and NAMI Athens member Tom Walker
Volunteers, local governments face challenges in caring for dead
Historic graveyards around Ohio can provide a fascinating glimpse into the state’s history back to its early settlement.
Genealogists use them to research family histories, and history buffs visit to learn about certain eras. And they are the places where the living go to remember and honor loved ones who have passed on.
But they aren’t self-maintaining: Grass must be mowed, paths need to be kept up and headstones that fall over — or are intentionally toppled — require attention. It’s a big job, because there are more than 14,000 sites in Ohio, ranging from tiny abandoned plots to large active cemeteries.
In some cases, reexamining the patchwork of state laws governing cemeteries might help ensure that the scores of them around Ohio that are controlled by local governments are properly maintained and managed in the best interest of all.
This is where the Ohio Cemetery Law Task Force, authorized in the state budget that took effect July 1, comes in. The advisory group plans to issue a report with recommendations by the end of September. It is expected to suggest areas where regulations could be updated and streamlined.
Municipalities on tight budgets would like more flexibility to find ways to help finance the upkeep of cemeteries they oversee. For example, they would like to have the ability to sell headstones and vaults rather than just plots, as they’re currently authorized to do.
In Fairfield County, commissioners are discussing what to do with a 174-year-old graveyard next to the former County Home for the Infirm and Poor, which is being eyed for demolition and redevelopment. They have asked the county prosecutor to weigh in on the legal issues involved with anything that might be done with the cemetery site.
Fairfield commissioner Steve Davis acknowledges, though, that when dealing with burial grounds, “clearly there are moral and ethical layers” as they try to “find out how to be respectful and make a sound policy decision” regarding the property.
Concerned residents around the state have pitched in to tend to graveyards in their communities, often motivated by seeing the final resting place of people’s ancestors and loved ones fall into disrepair. In Athens, Ohio University students had used three cemeteries owned by the university on the grounds of the former Athens Lunatic Asylum as places to hang out and goof off, sometimes knocking over gravestones or defacing them with red paint. Local citizens formed the Ridges Cemeteries Committee to change what the group’s head, former professor Tom Walker, calls the disrespectful treatment of grave sites.
In the 14 years since the group was formed, the Athens cemeteries have been secured, protected and improved. The committee’s efforts are aided by OU, along with assistance from other private groups and local, county and state agencies. Small flags stand in brass holders at the graves of military veterans and a nature trail with benches has been added and a pond has been revived.
“We wanted people to visit the cemeteries and appreciate them as hallowed grounds where people are buried ... These were human beings,” Walker told The Dispatch.
A society’s values are shown not only in the way it treats is living, but in how it treats the dead.
These volunteers are to be commended and their example followed, to ensure that those who have passed on rest in dignity.