OHIO VALLEY — Navigating addiction or mental illness issues are often hard for people to understand.
It is not uncommon for people to shy away from tough conversations involving topics like schizophrenia or alcoholism. Oftentimes, individuals struggling with such health conditions are blamed as having brought a situation upon themselves or are stigmatized for their illness. Those facing depression may struggle privately with inner demons whispering thoughts of suicide.
According to many, Ron Adkins, 58, of Gallipolis, dedicated his life to fighting such demons.
Adkins passed away Sunday at his residence, and despite being gone, his legacy remains with colleagues, family and friends who honor the memory of his mission to bring relief to those seeking help with their addictions or mental health issues. Adkins served as the executive director of the Gallia, Jackson, Meigs Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services.
According to board colleagues, Adkins started with the board as its deputy director in March 1990. He became executive director in September 1991. Before that, he had served as the financial aid director of the University of Rio Grande.
Colleagues said he was an ardent fan of Ohio State University sports as well as a lover of spending time in Key West, Fla. He was a 1976 graduate of Gallia Academy High School and graduated from Rio Grande College with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and earned a master’s degree in social agency counseling from the University of Dayton.
“Ron and I have been friends since college,” said Robin Harris, interim board director and Adkins’ deputy director. “We worked together for 20 years. We were a team. We were almost polar opposites in our personalities. His strengths played off my weaknesses and my strengths played off his weaknesses. We worked together well.”
Harris joked that Adkins was a man “full of gusto.” She said he often would have the windshield wipers on full speed during the rain, regardless of how hard it was pouring. She also said that he would have the heat cranked up or not at all depending on the weather. There was no in between with Adkins. Harris credited his personality with being part of the reason why the board had succeeded in its past endeavors.
Board associates emphasized Adkins demanded high standards in his pursuit of delivering quality health services and was a perfectionist. That said, he supported his colleagues through tough times and was every bit as much a friend to them when the going got rough from the luck of life’s dice rolls. Adkins has helped bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money to behavioral health agencies and boards in his service area. Harris said Adkins always gave colleagues credit where it was due as part of his leadership style.
“He had a mind for numbers and could just rattle off figures like that,” Harris said. “He had a business planning mind. We joked that he was a ‘human calculator.’”
On top of his never-ending quest to find funding for behavioral health care, Adkins was a devoted father to his two children, Kari Adkins Anderson and Tyler Adkins.
Colleague Chris Love said she hoped the board would continue to meet Adkins expectations and carry on with his work as he always took pride in what the board accomplished. Harris and colleague Jenny Metts said that filling Adkins’ shoes will be a large task, but that he had taught and prepared the board well to face future challenges in the behavioral health care field. They said Adkins excelled in finding resources for behavioral health care agencies, especially in a region where resources were often limited.
“He was a man of boundless compassion,” Harris said. “We have everything we need and we were taught well to carry forward. We will.”
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.