Middletown, Ohio is a city rife with problems: drug abuse, poverty, and unemployment. Yet, while it is easy to define the city by its issues, a more accurate representation recognizes Middletown for its unyielding drive for improvement. Leading this cause is one of Middletown’s greatest assets, a strong civil society.

Middlelayers Executive Director, Mintu Bachann, recently visited Middletown to begin implementing a new partnership between Middlelayers and the Community Building Institute of Middletown (CBI). While in Middletown, Bachann had the privilege of working closely with CBI and their partner organizations, including Supports to Encourage Low-income Families (SELF) and Access Counseling. The objective was to learn from the organizations about their roles in the community and observe how they care for the area’s most vulnerable populations.

CBI, SELF, and Access Counseling each work with individuals and families by helping them to overcome obstacles blocking traditional paths to upwardly mobility. CBI works with children from birth to adulthood through their cradle-to-career pipeline. Their programs apply a multi-generational approach by providing educational support, tangible resources, and case management to parents and their children. According to Executive Director Karin Maney, “We believe that if we are to make a difference in Middletown, we need to provide holistic services not just to the children, not just to the adults, but to the whole family.”

SELF offers multiple programs that guide clients to self-sufficiency. The Getting Ahead program, for example, helps individuals to evaluate their lives and develop plans to overcome personal and socio-economic obstacles to success. According to Executive Director Jeff Diver, SELF helps individuals to “Understand ways to actually leave poverty and move to the middle class.” To further support families along their journeys to upward mobility, SELF provides clients the short-term support needed (e.g. utility assistance and microenterprise support) to reach long-term goals.

Finally, Access Counseling supports the community by providing mental health counseling, addiction counseling services, and psychiatric care to patients of all ages. In a state with the country’s second highest number of overdose deaths in 2016, Access Counseling is on the frontlines of the Opioid Epidemic in Butler County.

In working with these and other Middletown organizations and agencies, Middlelayers’ objective is to support their poverty alleviation and health promotion efforts through the implementation of innovative technological solutions. Said Bachann, “Middletown organizations, like CBI and SELF, ensure that everyone has a place they can turn to for help. There’s poverty, but there’s also a community of support to help people through it.” Middlelayers will be implementing their Comprehensive Social Support System (CS3) platform to strengthen and expand this community of support.

Middlelayers will also be partnering with Dr. Kelly Cowan, the founder of CBI, to host a Trauma, Health, and Poverty Forum in the Fall 2018. Dr. Cowan is the former Dean of Miami University’s regional campus in Middletown and Director of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College (Middletown). The forum will gather Middletown leaders, community members, and health experts to discuss toxic stress and trauma-related health effects throughout the life course. The event will serve as an opportunity for families to understand how childhood trauma can perpetuate poverty and poor health and learn about the numerous Middletown organizations; like CBI, SELF, and Access Counseling; available to mitigate these risks.