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Franklin County First in Ohio to Offer Support for Problem Gamblers

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Franklin County First in Ohio to Offer Support for Problem Gamblers
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Enough Ohioans are struggling with problem gambling to populate a Columbus suburb. With the rest of the nation they spend more than $7 billion to support their addiction from their own funds and often from those of family members and friends, according to a recent press release.

These unseen sufferers are usually the ones to reach out for assistance. Paul Coleman, President and CEO of Maryhaven, an addictive and mental illness recovery facility in Columbus, said people can go a long time without recognizing an addiction, and by then the debt is already overwhelming.

“We’re looking at anywhere between $40-70,000 in debt at the point that a person actually recognizes or enters a form of treatment,” said Christy Daron, Clinical Director for the Franklin County Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health (ADAMH) Board.

Money from the family budget that would have been going to bills, gas and school supplies are used by the problem gambler to pay for the addiction; real financial obligations are dropped on the rest of the family and even friends.

“It is only in the rarest of cases that any person with any addiction, especially with compulsive gambling issues, lives in a vacuum,” David Royer, ADAMH CEO, said. “I think we’ve realized for a long time that addictive disorders are family diseases.”

In response to this, Franklin County’s ADAMH Board has partnered with Maryhaven to offer treatment and legal aid to those affected by a loved one’s disorder.

Funding for this comes from Ohio casinos’ revenues. Two percent of the money taxed on winning patrons enters a pool to be distributed throughout the 88 county ADAMH Boards. From there it’s used in prevention and treatment services.

Franklin County is the first in Ohio to adjust the budget to support family members since funding for problem gambling started in 2012, according to a survey done by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG).

Services including cognitive behavioral therapy and information and referral services can now be offered.

“What it is is a more flexible use of the current investments,” said Royer. “As we have this situation we just want to be cognizant. While somebody may not be quite ready for intervention or treatment, the family could potentially reach out and seek help.”

Ohio has an extensive supply of support programs offered through the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC), Maryhaven, ADAMH and others. The most recent was a prevention campaign launched in August, called “Be the 95%,” which offers tips and advice, encouraging gamblers to play smart, take a friend and avoid borrowing money to gamble.

“The factor of denial in problem gambling is very strong,” said Coleman. “You can know and not act. There are very few problem gamblers who do not know where help is. The question is will they be motivated to seek it and that is largely in control of the problem gambler himself or herself.”

For more information, visit www.the95percent.org.

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