Ohio Governor DeWine Appoints Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Stratton to his new RecoveryOhio Advisory Council

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced today the creation of a new council that will advise the Ohio Governor’s Office on critical matters concerning mental illness and substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery support services in Ohio.

stratton reovery ohio

Ohio Supreme Court Justice (Ret.) Evelyn Lundberg Stratton (left) looks on as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signs an executive order creating the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council

This afternoon, Governor DeWine signed an executive order creating the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council.

“As I travel the state, I constantly hear from struggling families who say Ohio’s system for treating those with mental health and substance use disorders needs repair,” said Governor DeWine. “I’m calling upon the members of this council to advise my administration on strategies to mend this fractured system. With improvements, I truly believe that Ohio can better assist those who are struggling to recover and help them lead high-quality, productive lives.”

RecoveryOhio Director Alisha Nelson will chair the council, which includes a diverse group of individuals who have worked to address mental illness or substance use issues in prevention, treatment, advocacy, or support services; government; private industry; law enforcement; healthcare; learning institutions; and faith organizations.  The council also includes individuals who are living with mental illness and/or a substance use disorder and their families.

Members of the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council include:

  • Ted Strickland, Former Governor of Ohio
  • Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Retired, Project Director, The Stepping Up Initiative
  • John Tharp, Lucas County Sheriff
  • Pastor Greg Delaney, Outreach Coordinator, Woodhaven
  • Suzanne Dulaney, Executive Director, County Commissioners Association of Ohio
  • Joan England, Executive Director, The Mental Health & Addiction Advocacy Coalition
  • Orman Hall, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area / Ohio University
  • Dr. Navdeep Kang, Director of Operations Behavioral Health, Mercy Health Cincinnati
  • Teresa Lampl, Associate Director, Ohio Council of Behavioral Health & Family Service Providers
  • Jessica Nickel, Founder, Addiction Policy Forum
  • Terry Russell, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio
  • Dr. Shawn Ryan, Chair of Payer Relations, Ohio Society of Addiction Medicine
  • Brenda Stewart, Founder, The Addict’s Parent United
  • Sarah Thompson, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Advocates for Addiction Recovery
  • Cheri L. Walter, CEO, Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities
  • Juliet Doris Williams, Executive Director, The P.E.E.R. Center

Additional members will be announced at a later date.

RecoveryOhio Advisory Council members will be tasked with issuing actionable recommendations to Governor DeWine and each cabinet-level state agency, board, and commission that provides services to individuals with mental illness or substance use disorders.

Governor DeWine has directed the council to issue recommendations on several pressing issues including, but not limited to:

  • Providing high quality prevention and early intervention programming in communities and schools;
  • Improving access to treatment services in Ohio for mental health and substance use disorders;
  • Developing support strategies on issues such as peer support, employment, and housing as foundations for wellness;
  • Improving the quality of care for mental health and substance use disorders in the community and in healthcare and criminal justice settings;
  • Creating efficiencies across systems;
  • Serving more underserved populations including youth, older adults, and veterans;
  • Measuring critical outcomes to gauge improvements in Ohio’s system of mental health and addiction services;
  • Coordinating federal, state, and local resources to ensure optimal use.

The advisory council will also make recommendations on fiscal appropriations in the state budget.

Governor DeWine has asked the council to issue their recommendations no later than March 8, 2019.

Operation Legal Help Ohio – Pro Bono Legal Help for Ohio Veterans

Please watch this video to learn more about Operation Legal Help Ohio.

Then go to our website http://www.olhohio.org/ if you are an Ohio veteran needing legal help, an Ohio lawyer wishing to volunteer your time or you wish to donate to this important cause.

Ohio has over 600,000 veterans, the sixth largest state veteran population in the United States.

USMC Reserve LTC Michael McCarthy joined Operation Legal Help Ohio (OLHO) in 2016 as the Executive Director. He is responsible for the day-to-day management of the organization and the execution of the mission. 


About Us

Operation Legal Help Ohio (OLHO) is a non-profit founded in 2013 to meet the unmet legal needs of Ohio’s brave men and women who have served in the Armed Forces.

Our mission is to marshal volunteer legal resources to help veterans and servicemembers avoid homelessness, remove barriers to employment, and protect their physical, mental and financial health.

OLHO connects veterans and servicemembers who meet eligibility requirements with our statewide network of volunteer attorneys.

Legal Assistance

is provided for the following legal matters:

  • Landlord/Tenant Issues & Evictions
  • Credit Card Debt & Other Consumer Issues
  • Uncontested Divorce or Dissolution
  • Wills & Advance Directives
  • VA Benefits Appeals
  • Expungement of Criminal Records
  • Driver’s License Reinstatement


While an Ohio Supreme Court Justice, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton was focused on finding a path to assist Ohio’s veterans and servicemembers who experienced challenges within the legal system.

evelyn_stratton_color Full

Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton

She first urged the creation of Veterans’ Treatment Courts, a diversion program targeted at rehabilitating veterans facing criminal charges, rather than punishing them.

Stratton found that many of the veterans she encountered had issues with civil justice, not just criminal matters, and she was determined to build a program that would offer civil legal representation to those who could not afford to hire a lawyer.

Ohio Specialty courts provide treatment and services instead of jail time

But as his mental health and addiction worsened, so did his crimes. In 2004, he was convicted with his first felony — domestic violence — and spent a year in jail. By 2011, Rangel had been arrested 63 times in Stark County. Charges included child endangerment, receiving stolen property, aggravated robbery, and felony escape.

Rangel’s behavior took a critical turn in the spring of 2008 when he stole a car, robbed a convenience store at gunpoint, and, when pulled over by police, slipped out of his handcuffs and fled on foot. Recaptured and sitting in the back of a police cruiser, Rangel remembers telling himself, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Luckily for Rangel, after serving more than four years in prison, his case came before Stark County Common Pleas Judge Taryn Heath in 2013. She decided that Rangel would make a good candidate for the county’s new Honor Court for veterans and active duty service members who have committed felonies that allow for probation



Stark County Honor Court is one of Ohio’s 245 specialty courts (sometimes called “specialized dockets” or “problem-solving courts”) aimed at providing treatment and services rather than jail time for offenders like Rangel, who suffer from mental health and addiction problems.


The judge works with a team to develop a case plan for each defendant and to closely supervise and support the defendant’s compliance. Studies show that specialized courts have greater success than traditional courts in keeping repeat offenders out of jail — saving both lives and the higher costs of imprisonment.

Steve Rangel Veteran and Honor Court mentor.

Rangel is a good example. Since graduating from the yearlong Honor Court program four years ago, he has been both arrest-free and drug-free. In fact, he now serves as a volunteer mentor to other veterans in the program.

“I’m a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a mentor — an actual asset to society,” he says. “Five years ago, if somebody told me I was going to be all that, I would have laughed it off.”

What made the difference? Besides the support from his wife and family, Rangel says, it was the supportive environment he found in Honor Court.

“From the very start, I noticed the care and concern from the prosecutor and defense attorney and, for the first time, I saw the judge as a person,” he says, as opposed to an authority figure.

Just as important, Honor Court connected Rangel with agencies and professionals who were able to diagnose his root problem for the first time — Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — and provide him proper treatment.

“I got VA (Veterans Affairs) services I didn’t even know existed,” he says.

The number of problem-solving courts in Ohio and across the country has soared since their inception in Florida 30 years ago, according to the National Center for State Courts.

Drug Courts for helping offenders with addiction problems are the most common type, with more than 3,000 in the U.S. and over 100 in Ohio. Other types of specialized courts in Ohio include those devoted to issues of mental health (43), family drug dependency (30), veterans (23), and re-entry after imprisonment (12), according to data from the Ohio Supreme Court.

Specialized courts must meet certain basic requirements before being certified by the Ohio Supreme Court, but they can differ widely in the services they provide and the success they achieve in keeping their graduates sober and law-abiding.

On average, drug court graduates are more than twice as likely to remain arrest-free a year after leaving the program than other offenders — a 75 percent success rate compared to 30 percent for traditional courts, according to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP).

Stark County Common Pleas Judge Taryn Heath displays a plaque presented to her during the Stark county Honor Court.

Veteran court graduates have an even higher rate of success — nine out of 10 are arrest-free a year later, according to the NADCP. Stark County Honor Court prides itself on a 94 percent success rate among its graduates, many of whom were convicted felons at high risk of being repeat offenders before entering the program, Heath says.

Specialized courts also save taxpayers’ money. The average annual cost per participant in a drug or veterans court is $7,000 — less than a third of the $22,265 needed on average to imprison an offender, Heath says.

Problem-solving courts use a carrot-and-stick approach to deal with the underlying issues that lead to repeat offenses. Those issues can include mental illness, substance abuse, unemployment, and homelessness. The stick for compliance, of course, is the threat of jail time. The carrot is a combination of treatment and services that require a team approach to first assess the needs of the defendant and then find the resources to meet those needs.

Stark County Honor Court goes well above and beyond the state requirements for a specialized court — a big reason for its high success rate among even the worst offenders.

“It sets the gold standard for other specialized courts in Ohio,” says Eve Stratton, a retired justice of the Ohio Supreme Court and a pioneer in establishing specialty courts in Ohio.

Stark County Honor Court has gathered a team of addiction, mental health, and other professionals to assess each participant’s needs and then connect them with the VA and community-based services they need. It also runs its own commissary to provide emergency food and clothing for veterans and offers perks for good behavior that include fuel cards and bus tokens.

A key to its success has been recruiting and training a cadre of veterans who volunteer to work as mentors with the participants. Mentors take a personal interest in each participant, meeting with them outside court and appearing by their side during court sessions. Among the court’s mentors are the Louisville Police Chief and a Stark County Sheriff Deputy.

Unfortunately, far fewer resources are found in rural areas of Ohio where the prevalence of opioid addiction is worse, says Keith Durkin, a professor of sociology at Ohio Northern University in Ada. Durkin called the opioid crisis “the greatest public health threat since the Spanish Flu of 1918” that killed 675,000 Americans.

“We’re fortunate in Hardin County that everyone is on the same page — the courts, the sheriff, the police — when it comes to drug court,” Durkin says. “But we still have a couple of challenges — a shortage of detox and rehabilitation centers locally as well as providers who can prescribe [treatment medications].”

The result in many less populated areas of Ohio is that drug court participants often have to drive long distances or find other means of transportation to get the services they need, sometimes venturing into the same urban neighborhoods where they purchased the drugs to begin with, Durkin says.

Worse, he says, research shows that rural and small-town residents are often ashamed to seek treatment because of the greater stigma there associated with addiction “because of a tradition of self-reliance,” Durkin says.

There’s also the greater possibility that if you do seek services you will encounter someone you know or are related to in the treatment system.

The passage of Issue I, which lowers the penalties and jail time for offenders convicted of possessing smaller amounts of drugs in Ohio, might have dramatically reduced the effectiveness of drug courts across the state by taking “the stick” out of the hands of judges, Durkin says.

“When we don’t have the threat (of significant jail time) I don’t know how else we’re going to get compliance,” he says.

But David Jaros, a former public defender and a professor of law at the University of Baltimore, disagrees. He believes “the stick” of jail time can force many addicts into treatment who aren’t ready and, when they fail to comply, result in even more jail time than if they hadn’t entered drug court.

“People don’t want to be addicted to drugs,” he says. “If there were some magic pill out there that would end addiction, they would take it. I think people over-estimate the value of that stick.”

The key to a successful drug court, Jaros says, is a judge who is flexible enough to make concessions for relapsed offenders rather than throwing them in jail.

“If judges don’t realize that users will often fail,” he says, “then they’re not serving the interest of the defendant and they’re wasting valuable resources.”

Judges who preside over specialized courts are, in essence, volunteering their extra time without extra pay from the state, one reason there aren’t more such courts in Ohio, Heath says.

“A judge has to have a passion for the project,” she says. “It’s just not something every judge is interested in doing.”

Heath also says that, if Ohio is serious about tackling the opioid crisis and the problems of veterans, its political leaders need to look at giving more support to specialized courts.

“Clearly,” she says, “our legislators need to become educated about this approach.”




Youngstown Municipal Veterans Treatment Court Judge inducted into Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame

Retired Youngstown Veterans Treatment Court Judge Robert Milich is inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame. Thank you for your service, Judge Milich, on this Veterans Day!


Judge Milich and granddaughter at 2018 Inudction ino OHVHOF

Eve Stratton congratulates retired Youngstown Municipal Veterans Treatment Court Judge Robert Milich (holding his granddaughter) at his induction into the 2018 Class of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.

This annual event recognizes inductees to the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame, which has inducted more than 560 veterans since its inception in 1992.

Each year, an executive committee, made up of representatives from Ohio’s veterans organizations, selects 20 inductees from applications received from across the state and nation.

Our inductees are leaders in a variety of areas including business, entertainment and education. Most importantly though, they all have made significant impacts on their communities.

Inductees into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame served their country honorably in a branch of military service and continued to serve their communities, state and nation after discharge.

Video Profile of Evelyn Lundberg Stratton

As an Ohio Supreme Court justice, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton ’79 JD held a unique role of power and prestige.

Still, a passion for advocacy — instilled by her Christian missionary parents — bubbled without a proper outlet. Stratton found a release in leaving the bench.

A daily dynamo, she’s now creating communities big and small to help reduce the number of people with mental illness in jail, including juveniles and military veterans.

Come along for a ride with a Buckeye always working on a plan to get from here to there.

Hang on.


Editor’s Note:  The Ohio State Alumni Magazine Cover Story, which includes this video, was published in a previous blog post.

New Franklin County Ohio Sheriff’s Office unit aims to address mental health issues – Retired Justice Stratton Supports New CID Unit.

Local News

By: Rob Sneed  NBC4 Columbus, Ohio

Link to video http://bit.ly/2K8Hh4i 


 COLUMBUS (WCMH) – A new push from local law enforcement to give those suffering from mental illness the help they need instead of going to jail.

The sheriff’s office started a new unit called the “Community Intervention and Diversion” unit, or CID. Deputies say they can’t always predict what’s going to happen on calls especially if the person they’re responding to is mentally ill. Sgt. Scott Blacker said CID will help officers better respond.

“Our goal ultimately is to be in place in the field with clinicians working alongside trained professionals.  Together we can reach out to those in need and get them the help they need,” said Blacker.

Scott Blacker said this is already being done though the office’s crisis intervention team CIT. The CID unit then helps connect the person and their family to mental health resources, to get them help they need instead of going to jail.

Evelyn Stratton, a former Ohio Supreme Court Justice, said this is a great thing.

“People who are on drugs and alcohol get arrested, they do have withdrawal issues, but they get better in prison or jail. When people have mental issues who are arrested they get worse,” said Stratton.

Stratton was a part of the push to get law enforcement across the state to form crisis intervention teams for the mentally ill. She is supportive of the sheriff’s office’s efforts.

“It’s amazing the transformation that happens when they get on medication they get treatment. They get housing they go back to school they get,’ said Stratton.

Called to Connect: Retired Ohio Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton’s life and work featured in Ohio State Alumni Magazine

Stratton OSU Alumni Magazine

As an Ohio Supreme Court justice, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton ’79 JD held a unique role of power and prestige. Still, a passion for advocacy — instilled by her Christian missionary parents — bubbled without a proper outlet. Stratton found a release in leaving the bench. A daily dynamo, she’s now creating communities big and small to help reduce the number of people with mental illness in jail, including juveniles and military veterans. Come along for a ride with a Buckeye always working on a plan to get from here to there. Hang on.

There are no windows in Meeting Room B in the basement of John McIntire Library in downtown Zanesville, Ohio. Fluorescent lights cast a pallid tone, heightened by blank, beige walls. The space is functional, but far from the ornate hall of the Ohio Supreme Court, where Evelyn Lundberg Stratton ’79 JD presided for 16 years before resigning as a justice in 2012 with two years remaining in her term. She made the career move to better quench a thirst for advocacy, which on this morning has led her to a rented room in the seat of Muskingum County, where she sits at a folding table and eats lunch from a paper plate with plastic utensils.

Stratton doesn’t want to be anywhere else. About 30 people from the county’s social services agencies, judicial system, law enforcement, medical fields and higher education have gathered to hear her speak about The Stepping Up Initiative of Ohio, the state’s partnership with a national program aimed at reducing the number of people with mental illness in jail. As project director, she has visited more than half of Ohio’s 88 counties in the past two years to extol and explain the initiative, and 41 have passed resolutions to implement it.

Muskingum County has already signed on, but Stratton has returned to provide details about the six-step planning process and tools available to the true heroes, as she refers to those gathered before her today. She’s also here to ignite their coals with her own fire.

“Everybody has the power to make a difference,” Stratton tells those assembled. “It can start with one small thing. Don’t think you have to join a big organization to save the world. Start small. Make a difference in one person’s life. You get to a mile inch by inch.”

Andrew Ina

At 65, Stratton is a hummingbird in scuffed high heels. She blinks, fidgets, gestures for emphasis as her words flow forth in a torrent, no notes or microphone needed. She could have presented this information in an email or conference call, but Stratton — “Call me Eve,” she says — made the one-hour drive from her home outside Columbus to look people in the eye, listen to their concerns, introduce them to one another, cajole them to converse, offer advice, bridge all gaps. It’s not a performance, for that suggests insincerity. Instead, this child of Christian missionary parents, who was born and raised in Southeast Asia, knows no other way. She calls the work she’s doing now her mission, and so today there is zealotry in Zanesville. Veterans of Stratton meetings chuckle at a description of the day, for they know well what it’s like to be in a room with the former justice in full flight.

“She’s a force,” says former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Yvette McGee Brown ’85.

“She’s a dynamo,” declares Tracy Plouck ’97, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“She’s relentless,” says Tom Stickrath ’79, who heads the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).

Thom Craig has spoken alongside Stratton more than 40 times since Stepping Up launched in 2015. She has met him each time with a warm greeting, and she listens intently to his speech as if she’s never heard of this topic before. Stratton first felt a calling to advocate for people with mental illness —many of them juveniles and veterans — as a trial judge. In seven years on the Franklin County Common Pleas Court bench, she saw many of the same individuals recycle through on charges. Instead of falling prey to cynicism, the self-described “doer” sought system reform through collaboration. As director of the mental health program for Peg’s Foundation, a sponsor of the privately funded Stepping Up Initiative of Ohio, Craig has never seen a hint of negativity in Stratton.

“She always sees a way,” he says. “Maybe that’s because she’s seen so much.”

An obligation to give back

Mementos of a happy personal life and sparkling career decorate Stratton’s small, tidy office at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, the Columbus law firm where she has provided counsel part-time, behind the scenes, since leaving the Supreme Court five-and-a-half years ago. Photos of her husband, Jack Lundberg, and two adult sons, Tyler and Luke Stratton, are intermingled with awards, including the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor and a trophy with this inscription: “LeTourneau College Girls Goat Tying, First Place, 1972.” Yes, she once tied goats in a rodeo. Here, too, are statues of elephants, paintings of leopards, lions and zebras, and a photograph of her father, Elmer, on the Mekong River, a reminder of her upbringing in Southeast Asia.

“If I died tomorrow, I will have lived more lives than most people ever get a chance to,” Stratton says. “I remember thinking that 20 years ago. Because of that, I feel like I have an obligation to give back.”

Stratton’s passion for advocacy stems from her parents’ missionary work, but it’s been shaped by her own life experiences. As a child in Thailand, her house was a bare wooden structure with no running water or electricity. Pythons and boa constrictors were common. After age 6, she lived apart from her parents for nine months at a time while attending boarding school in war-torn Vietnam. She was 14 when the Tet Offensive escalated safety concerns in 1968, prompting the family to evacuate to Bangkok. It wasn’t the last time danger breathed down her neck. She’s been lost in the jungle for hours at a time, ridden an elephant during a stampede — “They rock back and forth sideways,” she reports — and rope-climbed mountains in Malaysia. A school bus once forced her car off the road on a campaign trip. As a trial judge, a death threat prompted Columbus police to tail her with protection for a short period. She keeps a reminder of that time: a tiny replica of a tombstone, bestowed by a fellow judge with a similar sense of humor.

“Nothing fazes me,” Stratton says. “I’m not afraid of any problem. I’ll tackle it.”

MIssionary Elmer Sahlberg paddles Southeast Asia's Mekong River

Missionary Elmer Sahlberg, who shared with daughter Evelyn a zeal for helping others, travels the Mekong River in Southeast Asia

Young Evelyn and friends, Nong Khai, Thailand

Friends surround young Evelyn in Nong Khai, Thailand

Photos courtesy of Evelyn Lundberg Stratton

Evelyn accepts a ride on an elephant in Bangkok

Teen Evelyn accepts a ride on an elephant in Bangkok

Fearlessness and $500 were all Stratton possessed when she moved alone to America for college at 18. She held several small jobs while earning a degree in history from the University of Akron, then worked nights at the Lazarus cosmetics counter while enrolled in Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law. Alphabetical seating meant the BCI’s Stickrath sat next to her that first year, and he recalls his friend as a smart, serious student. “That combination has obviously served her well,” he says. “It’s been no surprise to see the career success she’s had.”

Stratton also showed ferocious determination while breaking into the male-dominated field of law. She applied for numerous jobs in her first six months after graduation. No, she kept being told. “I kept interviewing and interviewing because I loved it, and I knew I’d be good at it,” says Stratton, who eventually was hired by a small Columbus law firm. She took cues from the book Dress for Success, plowed hours into cases, impressed others in the courtroom with her preparation and networked persistently, even with adversaries. She wanted to be a judge by age 50. “There’s no explanation why, other than it was my calling,” Stratton says. “It just felt like that was what I was supposed to do with my life.” In 1989, she became the first woman elected to Franklin County Common Pleas Court. She was 34.

“To some extent, she got tested by the lawyers because of her youth,” says Michael Close ’67, a fellow Republican elected to the same court that year. “Eve had to be tough. She had to learn when she had to make the calls and when she could bend. She did a fine job.”

Stratton learned how to get things done, sometimes enlisting Close to introduce her ideas about court administration so there’d be less pushback from older, male judges. This woman prosecutors dubbed “The Velvet Hammer” for her tough sentencing in white-collar crime cases wasn’t afraid to do what she thought necessary. She never buckled under her workload, which grew like spring weeds after Gov. George Voinovich appointed her to the Ohio Supreme Court in 1996. She later earned three six-year terms from voters. Dave Smith, her friend and volunteer driver for nearly 30 years, removed a bench seat from the back of his black Chevy van and installed a countertop desk so she could read legal briefs and write on the road. “We’d go to a campaign dinner or fundraiser in Cleveland or Akron or wherever and she’d get back in the van at 10 o’clock at night,” Smith recalls. “She’d take a 5- or 10-minute nap, and then she’d get up, turn the lights on and work the rest of the drive home. It didn’t matter what time of night it was, she’d work.”

‘I was unleashed’

Despite loving her role as a justice, the work closest to Stratton’s heart increasingly involved improving a judicial system swollen with repeat offenders experiencing mental illness. “I had several family members over the years suffer from mental illness, and I saw what it could do to a family,” she says. “As a trial judge, I had so many cases involving the mentally ill. They didn’t belong in the system, but I didn’t know what to do with them. The more I researched it and talked to people involved, I realized there was a huge need. It was an area without much leadership. People have a passion for cancer or diabetes, but mental illness didn’t have a political voice. I felt I could make a difference. The veterans courts were an extension of my mental health work, and working with juveniles was another version.”

Stratton formed and chaired committees to combat the challenges. After learning that her early strategy of jailing those convicted most often led to costly recidivism, not necessary treatment, she created an atmosphere of acceptance for mental health courts that took into account the complicated issues involved. The work led to the creation of 44 mental health courts and 23 veterans courts in Ohio. Her time kept evaporating until 2012 when she had one of her “eureka moments,” which occasionally come out of the blue to offer a clear path. Stratton concluded her calling to help provide mental health services to offenders would best be pursued as a private citizen.

“Think of how courageous it was for her to leave the Supreme Court,” McGee Brown says. “Most people can’t wait to get into those seats and stay forever.”

Instead, Stratton couldn’t wait to get into the community at large and build small communities bonded by a just cause. “I was unleashed,” she says.

Her Stepping Up colleague Craig says Stratton has rewired, not retired. Some mornings, she wakes up without an alarm clock, “my mind going so much I’ve got to get up and deal with it.” Carrie Marioth, legal secretary at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, says Stratton’s schedule is “bonkers.” Problem-solving often has her meeting with county officials somewhere around the state, GPS required. For events outside Columbus, she still works in the backseat while Smith drives her Ford Escape. “We’ve got two cell phones, an iPad and a laptop going in the car at all times,” Smith says. “The phone doesn’t stop ringing, and she doesn’t stop answering emails, from the minute she gets into the car until we get back home. It wears me out. She’s passionate about what she’s doing, and I think when you’re passionate about something, you find the energy to do it.”

She also has passion and energy for the practice of law, and about one-third of her time is spent as counsel with Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, a job she’s held since early 2013. She works with the firm’s clients -and sometimes outside companies and law firms throughout the countryin an advisory role that she sees as a direct application of her Ohio State education.

“I am basically an appellate coach,” Stratton says. “I try to make excellent lawyers even better. I help them shape their arguments, craft their briefs, and they practice their oral arguments with me pretending to be the judge to prepare for cases. It’s a lot of fun. I like the complexity of the difficult legal issues. I like pitting my mind and training against the best way to craft an argument. I find it very satisfying professionally and emotionally.”

Although no longer a justice, Stratton’s advocacy work still occasionally lands her in the halls of state power, where her renowned reputation for personal connection and communication command attention — and ignite action. “She does not take no for an answer,” Plouck says. “If you want to move an initiative forward, she is an excellent partner to have.”

Seeing a person instead of a title enables Stratton to keep party lines from walling off progress. McGee Brown, a Democrat, says it was clear that Stratton viewed herself as a public servant, not a politician, when they served together on Franklin County Common Pleas Court and the Ohio Supreme Court. “As a colleague, she was great to work with,” McGee Brown says. “Eve and I didn’t always agree, but it was never in a disrespectful way.”

When the Ohio Attorney General’s Task Force on Criminal Justice and Mental Illness (which Stratton co-chairs) met recently, attendees introduced themselves and their work affiliation. Someone delivered an often-heard quip, “I work for Eve Stratton.” Another replied,
Stratton meets with law enforcement in Columbus, Ohio

Stratton, shown here at a meeting in Columbus with law enforcement officers representing 83 counties, joins forces with officials at all levels of government to further the causes of people with mental illness.

Jo McCulty

A connector in her element

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”

This quote by French philosopher Albert Camus is one of Stratton’s favorites, fueling 60- and 70-hour work weeks despite being of retirement age. She’s set a goal to give up Saturday and Sunday work within the next two years, and there are means of escape. Her husband, whom she credits for his abiding support in all her endeavors, is building a home they will share in the Montana wilderness. While the house is under construction, the couple retreats to a rustic 10-by-10-foot cabin on the land they’ve owned for three years. They’ve been fly-fishing in Chile and Costa Rica, and they enjoy traveling to see Stratton’s sons, Luke, a light and sound director for music shows who lives in Denver, and Tyler, an assistant film and TV director in Los Angeles. At home, Stratton cooks Thai food, works in the garden, paints and writes poetry and science fiction stories.

Yet one pursuit tugs at her heart and demands her time more than most others.

“She really likes getting people together in a room, talking about a problem and getting them to move forward on it,” Tyler says. “She has this great ability to get people to want to do stuff they didn’t know they wanted to do. Her way is not to play hardball with them; it’s more like kill them with personal attention.”

Stratton is in her element on this morning in Zanesville, walking out from behind the podium, pointing to people, prodding participation in the library basement. She asks all 30 who they are and what they do, and responds each time by rattling off suggestions about who in the room could help whom and how.

Brian Wagner, executive director of the Muskingum County Community Foundation, mentions a grant. “Now here is a person who said he’s here to help,” Stratton tells the others, “and he has money!” Laughter fills the room. “A little money,” Wagner clarifies. “I’ve learned you don’t get unless you ask,” replies this contingent’s connection maker.

Stratton’s idea of leadership is to empower others. She says for some unknown reason she’s always been able to see — often in ways others don’t — who should be in a group and how they should be linked. Her job is to make everyone coalesce, no matter their diverse agendas. With that intention, a sense of accomplishment is palpable on a rainy morning in Muskingum County as the two-hour meeting closes with applause. Zanesville Municipal Court Judge William Joseph approaches Stratton. “What you are doing is wonderful,” he tells her.

As the room clears, Stratton collects her Stepping Up brochures, lifts her briefcase and, in uncharacteristic fashion, heads slowly down the hall. A day earlier, she spoke in Columbus to law enforcement officers from 83 counties at a Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association gathering. Several thanked her after that presentation, in which she shared a similar swirl of names, program details and suggestions for dealing with mentally ill criminals. Now, less than 24 hours later in Zanesville, Stratton gets on the elevator and lets out a sigh. “I always feel like a balloon deflating after one of these,” she says.

The feeling doesn’t last. Zanesville is barely in the rearview mirror when Stratton — papers spread around her in the car’s backseat — puts in her earbuds and joins a conference call as the miles roll by on Interstate 70. Home beckons in Columbus, where on a small scrap of paper in her office desk is an unattributed quote, one she considers a good motto to live by.

“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, mango juice in one hand, chocolate in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming ‘WOO HOO — what a ride!’”


Synchronicity: one of the many blessings of life

You never know how the good you do — the person you assist or the thing you advance — can come back to you in ways you don’t expect.

Before I was born, my parents were assigned to a church in Alabama in preparation for doing missionary work. Their mission required them to raise $1,000 for passage to Thailand. My father was making only $50 a week as a pastor, so Mom started praying. Sure enough, one day Dad came home with a check for $1,000. A church family in Toledo, Ohio, picked my parents at random from a list of missionaries and sent them a check.

When I was practicing law, I was doing a will for a widow named Ethel Morris. She was very distressed. Her sister, Violet Moon, needed brain surgery, but her insurance had been canceled because she’d forgotten to pay her premiums. I got involved, and doctors found that her memory loss was a medical side effect of her condition. I got the insurance company to reinstate Violet’s coverage once she paid her bills, and Violet went on to have a successful surgery.

Violet Moon

Violet Moon played a profound role in the life of Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, even if Stratton didn’t know the full story for decades.

Courtesy of Evelyn Lundberg Stratton

A few months later, my parents came to visit, and I invited Ethel to meet them. She asked if her sister Violet could come because she’d always had an interest in missionary work. “Sure,” I said.

Ethel called her sister, and Violet said: “I love missionaries. I know a lot of them. What are their names?”

Ethel said: “Their names are Corrine and Elmer Sahlberg,” which is my maiden name.

There was a long pause.

And then Violet said: “That’s very strange. Thirty-five years ago, my husband and I gave $1,000 to Corrine and Elmer Sahlberg to go to Thailand.”

So, you see, I think that I’m in the right spot — helping people with mental illness — for a reason. — Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, as told to Todd Jones


Stratton’s Tips for Success

All of us can take a lesson from this advice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton regularly offers law students and young lawyers.

1. Set goals. Make small steps to meet short-term goals and develop a plan for five years and beyond.

2. Find mentors to help you achieve your goals.(Hers included a political mentor to guide her on party politics, a bar association mentor to help with networking and learning about other paths, and a law practice mentor to assist on the job.)

3. Network. Set up a lunch when you don’t need something. (Her law-practice calendar included four lunch dates a week — with opposing counsel, bar association colleagues, charitable organization representatives and community leaders.).

4. Take risks, and don’t be afraid to lose.

5. Get involved in organizations. Move from subcommittee to co-chair to board. Go the extra mile. Do the work.

6. Love every stage of your career — not just tomorrow. Enjoy what you are doing right now.

7. Never mistreat anyone, especially administrative assistants and other staff. They are the key to access the boss, and it is the right thing to do.

8. Leave good behind, wherever you go.Understand that you are blessed. Pay forward. Practice pro bono for those in need. (Relatives don’t count.) Give to charity in time and money.

9. Winning is not the most important thing. How you handle things along the way is.

10. The best motto is last: Family first. Haven’t taken a vacation in five years? That’s bad for all involved. Do things with and for your family, and make it a rule to treat your loved ones better than your boss and clients.



Retired Ohio Justice Stratton Highlights Ohio Stepping Up Initiative; Star House Focuses On Homeless Youths

Stratton Highlights Stepping Up Initiative; Star House Focuses On Homeless Youths

May 21, 2018 Nearly half of the state’s counties are now participating in the Stepping Up Initiative, which is designed to reduce the number of people with mental illness in jails.

That update was delivered Monday by former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, the project director, to members of the Criminal Justice and Mental Health Task Force, which she also co-chairs.

A focus of the initiative moving forward will be on housing, she said, calling it a crucial element to all projects involving mental health. “When they come out of a hospital there is no way that person is really stable and ready to face the public,” she said.

Across Ohio, up to 30% of jail inmates have a mental illness. Ms. Stratton highlighted $2.5 million secured in the two-year state budget (HB 49) to reimburse counties for psychotropic medicine used in jails. She also touted $1.5 million in the budget for crisis centers.

Ms. Stratton also spoke highly of the benefit bank, which is a one-stop shop that connects people with state and federal benefits for which they may be eligible. “Most of the time your client will never make that very first visit,” she said of other agencies.

Another project in the pipeline is the creation of a universal release form, Ms. Stratton said. “We just hope to do all these things that can make a difference.”

Star House: The panel also heard a presentation from Ann Bischoff, CEO of Star House, which is a drop-in center that serves homeless people ages 14-24.

Ms. Bischoff said the center served nearly 1,000 youths last year through 34,000 visits that include the possibility of a shower, a hot meal and a change of clothes.

In addition to basic needs, Star House also focuses on trauma recovery. Ms. Bischoff said about 50% of the youths living on the streets have experienced children services to some extent, about 25% have aged out of foster care and 41% have attempted suicide at least once.

On a 10-point scale of trauma, homeless youth tend to experience the same level of trauma as Holocaust survivors, Ms. Bischoff said. Homeless youths often lack hope for the future, and Star House seeks to help them build social connections to overcome that hopelessness, she added.




  • VA seeks partnerships to build and improve health-care facilities to better serve Veterans, Deadline for Response January 15, 2018





  • VA Prioritizes Improving Veterans’ Access to Pro Bono Legal Services
  • Ohio Justice Kennedy takes leadership on veterans court issues
  • Pennsylvania Justice Debra Todd: Courts realize many veterans who commit crimes need treatment, not jail





  • Ohio Attorney General DeWine awards nearly $1 million to Ohio veterans’ organizations
  • Justice (ret.) Evelyn Lundberg Stratton: On this Veterans Day, a special thank you to all those who have served and still serve our country.


Ohio Attorney General DeWine awards nearly $1 million to Ohio veterans’ organizations

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced on Thursday that his office awarded almost $1 million in grants to Ohio veterans’ organizations.

The grant funds are from assets seized after a charity scam involving a man known as ‘Bobby Thompson,’ or John Donald Cody.

‘Bobby Thompson’ collected millions of dollars through a fake charity for Navy veterans and was convicted in 2013. 

Attorneys with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office prosecuted the case and he was sentenced to 28 years in prison.

“We worked hard to ensure this money would be used as originally intended – to help veterans,” Attorney General DeWine said in a press release. “The con artist who took this money lied to people about how it would be used. Now that con artist is in prison, and the contributions of well-meaning donors are going to help men and women who served our country. It was a terrible scam, but something good has come out of it.”

Now the money collected is being given back to legitimate charities, including Ohio’s five Honor Flight hubs, which will be receiving $115,000 each.

Five other veteran organizations and several veterans’ courts will also be receiving money

Here’s the complete list:

Boby Thompson Grant List




  • November 13th -17th – Veteran Legal Clinic Week of Service (Pro Bono Legal Assistance for Veterans at VA medical centers





  • VA Announces Veterans Coordinated Access & Rewarding Experiences (CARE’) Act Proposal to Congress: Replaces Current 30-day/40-mile’ System With Patient/Provider-centric Decision-making





  • Stepping Up – The Ohio Project: Practical Solutions for Shutting the Revolving Door of Jail and Mental Illness (Webinar Rewind) by retired Ohio Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton (Director: Stepping Up – The Ohio Project)


Stepping Up – The Ohio Project: Practical Solutions for Shutting the Revolving Door of Jail and Mental Illness (Webinar Rewind)

the ohio project

The County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO) offered a one-hour webinar on September 13, 2017 titled “SteppingUp: Practical Solutions for Shutting the Revolving Door of Jail and Mental Illness ”.


Retired Ohio Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton

Retired Ohio Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Project Director for Stepping Up Ohio, shared how this national program is tackling the serious issues of jails being the de facto mental health institutions for those with mental illness.

She explained how this program, and Ohio’s version, is trying to change that scenario so that these persons no longer cycle through jailand can be stabilized in the community with services that are far less costly and more effective. The webinar covered:

 Background and statistics on the issue of jails and mental illness
 Stepping Up: what is it all about and Ohio’s version
 Forming the state and community partnerships to make it work
 Practical tools and solutions, many costing little or no money.
 Lessons learned on how to break the cycle
 Challenge to audience to create their own solutions and how to do so

Program flyer

Webinar Presentation

Stepping Up – The Ohio Project Infographics:

Stepping Up: Practical Solutions for Shutting the Revolving Door of Jail and Mental Illness
tepping Up – The Ohio Project
0 Free Resources
he Ohio Benefit Bank
hio Compassion Map
he Ohio Project-4 Ways You Can Benefit from Stepping Up
0 Facts About Crisis Intervention Teams
eterans Justice Programs

Sequential Intercept Mapping
teering Committee
hio Attorney General Task Force on Criminal Justice and Mental Illness
hio Consortium of Crime Science and Stepping Up
unders and Sponsors