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Community News

Health center CEO looks back on long career

6/6/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Ted Ziegler is retiring at the end of June after a 34-year career at Community Health Center, which offers treatment for mental health and substance abuse issues, as well as services for the general public.
Photo: Kathleen Folkerth
AKRON — In his 34 years with an Akron area behavioral health care agency, Ted Ziegler has seen his share of change.

“The public likes to think that all addiction is the same, but it isn’t,” said Ziegler, chief executive officer of Community Health Center (CHC) in Akron. “In the early days, everyone thought the job was to dry [patients] out and push them out the door. In the course of all these years, we’ve found out that there’s no single problem. And the intensity and types of problems vary between the sexes.”

The shift in the ways professionals treat addiction and mental health issues isn’t the only thing that Ziegler, 71, has seen progress in his years of working. Since he joined CHC in 1978, becoming CEO two years later, the agency has gone from one with a rented building, 20 employees and a budget of a little more than half a million dollars to one with 195 employees working in seven buildings with a budget of $13 million.

Ziegler, who announced his June 28 retirement last fall, said he doesn’t want to take credit for the agency’s growth and expansion into new services. But he said over the years he and his staff have continually looked for ways to help enhance the services offered to clients and the general public.

A native of Altoona, Pa., Ziegler studied psychology and sociology at Kent State University (KSU) and The University of Akron. He earned his degree at KSU after two years serving in Vietnam with the U.S. Army, earning the rank of first lieutenant. He and his wife, Nanci, live in Coventry.

In his first professional endeavors, he and a friend worked on grant applications for mental health agencies. When a job opened up at CHC as director of its methadone clinic in 1978, he applied and was hired.

In his history with CHC, Ziegler said the agency has remained true to its mission of serving clients in need of rehabilitation. Along the way, those clients’ needs for other services drove the agency to diversify.

“We started adding services,” he said. “We realized they needed housing, they needed jobs, they needed assistance with the criminal justice system, child care, clothing. So we started to provide ‘wrap around services.’”

The agency added medical services to help clients deal with the health problems that often occur as a result of their substance abuse, as well as screenings and treatment for other health conditions.

“We wanted to improve the quality of their health care,” he said, adding that CHC also offered the services to clients’ family members.

Ziegler said the agency also worked to help clients secure housing. In 2002, he founded the Ohio Multi-County Development Corp. (OMCDC), and today it provides more than 450 housing units in a five-county area.

“We’ve had great success with residential care post-treatment,” Ziegler said. “Some of our clients have gone on to graduate from college.”

CHC also established a child care center and clothing distribution to help its female clients, many of whom are single mothers.

Other aspects of CHC’s operation are CommStaff, an employment agency for clients and others, and laser treatment for skin issues such as age spots and unwanted tattoos that is open to the public.

As part of the latter mission, CHC gives clients who need to improve their appearance as they search for work a much reduced rate for services, while the general public will find competitively priced procedures, Ziegler said.

In the future, Ziegler said he sees the agency moving to deliver more services such as video therapy through the use of computers. This year, CHC is spending $700,000 on that service, which saves clients time and money, he said.

In deciding to retire this year, Ziegler said he isn’t doing it because he’s tired of his job.

“This has been a joy — 34 years of a joy,” he said. “But I want to enjoy retirement. I could work until I die, but what would be the benefit? There’s a time for everything.”

He added he started working this week with his successor, Robert Stokes, on the transition.

“I have very mixed emotions about it,” he said of leaving the job. “It marks the end of a fantastic journey.”

For details on CHC, call 330-434-4141 or go to www.commhealthcenter.org.

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