Ron Clark Named CIT Advocate of the Year by Mecklenburg County Crisis Intervention Team

image of Ron Clark

Ron Clark, a Member Engagement Specialist with Cardinal Innovations Healthcare's Mecklenburg Community Office, was recognized recently as Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Advocate of the Year by the Mecklenburg County Crisis Intervention Team.

Clark, who assists with CIT training in Mecklenburg County by participating in role playing events and member panels, was honored with this recognition during the Mecklenburg County Crisis Intervention Team Community Awareness and Recognition Event on June 1.

“As a result of the relationships he has built among stakeholders and members, he has become a 'go to' Cardinal Innovations representative in the community," said LaShay Avery, Cardinal Innovations Community Engagement Manager. “Ron will literally always go the extra mile to help someone. He is completely selfless in that way."

Clark said his primary purpose as a CIT advocate is to assist in the training of officers and first responders to reduce harm and increase diversion from jail to treatment for individuals living with mental health or substance use disorders. He often speaks to first responders about stigmas associated with mental health and substance use.

“But mainly I give officers the opportunity to be up close and personal with a person who has had 21 years of active addiction to drugs and has been incarcerated, but now lives a very productive life in recovery," said Clark, referring to his personal experiences. He refers to his story as that of “bridges, bushes and bus stops."

“I lived under a bridge downon Tryon Street in Mecklenburg County," he said. “Everything I owned was in two 7-11 bags in the bushes. All of my substance use was at a bus stop at the foot of that bridge. Hence, the slogan in my life was a series of bridges, bushes and bus stops. But something happened several years back."

Clark decided to get help and sought intensive treatment for substance use disorder. Clark, who began working for Cardinal Innovations in 2015, uses his personal experience to help Cardinal Innovations members as well as to train first responders who may encounter individuals with mental health or substance use disorders.

“I do role play where we create real life situations so the participants can truly experience peaceful de-escalation and diversion to treatment instead of violent arrests and incarcerations," Clark said.

Clark said he reminds first responders that the cost of housing an inmate in the general population is roughly $30,000 per year. But helping an individual get the services they need to improve his or her life not only saves the cost of incarcerating them, but also leads to them becoming a contributing member of their community.

“(Clark's) passion and love for the work allows him to have a lasting positive impact on the community and members he meets," said Lakeisha McCormick, Member Engagement Manger for Cardinal Innovations' Southern Region and Clark's supervisor. “He is well deserving of the award and recognition."

Clark said he has interacted with officers using CIT techniques in the community including two officers who recently asked for his assistance. The officers were working with a man who has severe mental health issues and was living at a bus stop for two years. He had been asked to move without success. Officers asked for Clark's help.

“I developed a relationship with him over the course of 10 to 12 days using Peer Support and WRAP techniques," Clark said. “He developed some hope and began to trust me."

The officers helped obtain a valid North Carolina ID for the man and Clark escorted him to the Charlotte Uptown Men's Shelter, where he qualified for a supportive housing program.

“There are opportunities for people like him all throughout this city, all throughout this state and all throughout this world," Clark said.

image of a young Ron Clark in the military
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