MPA alum works to reduce stigma around behavioral health

Daniel Kington
March 27, 2018

Roberts, EviEvi Roberts, a 2017 graduate of Ohio University’s Master of Public Administration program, has quickly made an impact in her position as coalition and community development coordinator with Stark County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery.

While at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, Roberts was a graduate assistant for Associate Professor Holly Raffle, who focuses on program evaluation, particularly in education and public health.

“I developed a sound foundation in prevention as Dr. Raffle’s graduate assistant,” Roberts said. “I learned things that I need to know to be a successful professional in my field that would have taken multiple trainings and years to learn otherwise.”

Roberts hit the ground running at her new position, proposing a mentorship program for the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Prevention Association of Ohio (ADAPAO) to connect prevention professionals that was heavily inspired by the Voinovich School’s own mentorship program.

As a result of her leadership, both within ADAPAO and through her external representation of the organization at the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Roberts was named the 2018 ADAPAO Member of the Year.

“Evi has made exceptional contributions to ADAPAO since joining the association,” noted Tommy Koopman, Vice President of ADAPAO, in the organization’s announcement of the award. “She has embraced membership as an opportunity to both grow professionally and contribute to the field, and ADAPAO and our profession are better for her engagement.”

Roberts also recently contributed to a published white paper about reducing stigma around substance use disorders and other addictions. Roberts began working on the paper as a Voinovich School student during an internship at Ohio MHAS. She continued work on the project—along with two co-authors—throughout her second year at the Voinovich School.

Using Person-First Language across the Continuum of Care for Substance Use and Other Addictive Disorders: Words Matter to Reduce Stigma” evaluates the ways language contributes to stigma around mental health and addiction and offers preferred terminology for discussing substance use disorders.

“When we dehumanize and stigmatize addiction, we convince ourselves it cannot happen to us or our loved ones,” Roberts said. “We are therefore unprepared when someone we care about develops a substance use disorder, because we see it as a choice rather than a disease. Reducing stigma allows us to see ourselves in the place of the person who has an addiction and see what is actually needed to prevent others from developing substance use disorders in the future.”