LJ Cunningham

Columbus, Ohio Isn’t Safe for Black People

While Black and trans people are being targeted by legislation, we can see the emboldened hate group presence growing in Columbus, Ohio.

Post Published: December 11, 2022

Columbus, Ohio Mental Health & Addiction Treatment Services

During the summer of 2020, the Columbus PD brutally beat, gassed, and otherwise traumatized Ohio citizens who protested unlawful police-involved murders of Black people.

That same year, the City of Columbus and the Franklin County ADAMH Board publicly declared racism a “public health crisis.” This declaration made me think about police brutality, racism, and the state of mental health in Ohio.

According to Ohio law, each county’s ADAMH Board determines who can enforce an emergency 72-hour hold – aka “pink slip.” It seemed to me that people with better coping skills and less weaponry might enhance public safety for already-vulnerable people.

I reached out to the Franklin County ADAMH Board directly. Citing a specific Ohio Revised Code, I asked the Board to consider using their influence for good. My request was that they decrease police involvement, by expanding permissions for persons who can legally do crisis assessments.

Imagine my surprise, during an August 2020 virtual public ADAMH Board meeting, when Board members had no idea what I was talking about. The people who make up the Board, per Ohio law, are able to determine who responds to crisis calls. And they had no idea they could remove or lower the amount of police responding to mental health crises.

black squares with white lettering spell out in three lines, top to bottom, mental health matters against gray marble background
Photo by Marcel Strauß on Unsplash


This link has the basic info on my presence at the meeting. It seems Franklin County ADAMH scrubbed the video of this meeting and previous public videos from their YouTube channel. Smart move, considering that meeting in particular was an embarrassment for a system touting to care for people. Especially, in the context of stopping racism and increasing public health and equity.

My interaction with the Franklin County ADAMH Board was important. The ADAMH Board is a major funder of NetCare Access. After a year of headlines championing Republican Mike DeWine as a mental health advocate, 24/7, tangible in-person assistance suddenly stopped. This after the Franklin County ADAMH Board received literal millions of dollars in State and Federal funding.

screenshot from the netcare access instagram page shows blue and purple pastels with blue bold lettering reading: special announcement www.netcareaccess.org. the post on IG explains one may call the crisis line or 911

My attempts to reach the Franklin County ADAMH Board in 2020, included correspondence with Dr. Delaney Smith. Dr. Smith is an OSU assistant professor, and forensic psychiatrist. We exchanged emails until the end of the 2020.

On December 29, 2020, Dr. Kevin Dixon was added to my email chain. According to Dr. Smith, Dr. Dixon would be helpful to me regarding “equity.” Dr. Dixon retired at the end of January, 2021. I never heard back from him.

March of 2021, after Columbus Police murdered 15 year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, was my last contact with the the Board.

An email I sent to Dr.s Smith and Dixon on April 28, 2021 following the shooting death of Ma’Khia Bryant
Screenshot of an email response from Dr. Delaney Smith, to Lily Cunningham, dated May 24, 2021.
An email response from Dr. Delaney Smith, dated May 24, 2021.


As of December 29, 2020, the Franklin County ADAMH Board was piloting an initiative where social workers and cops responded to crisis calls. The intention was to limit police involvement, along with the hours for response times. The board specifically chose responders from “community health centers” (NetCare Access).

Franklin County, Ohio, where Columbus is located, closed it’s only 24/7 walk-in mental health crisis unit on November 25, 2022. As of December, 2022, the source of those social workers has closed in-person care and provides phone services only 24/7.

I contacted the NetCare crisis hotline and the new National 988 number both to learn more about the process. I introduced myself as a therapist seeking to better understand what follows when these numbers are called. And you guessed it: Call centers dispatch police to the location of the crisis. This is a terrifying and unacceptable circumstance that the people of Franklin County don’t deserve.

Attacks on Licensed Professionals

This week, the NASW Ohio Chapter alerted the public to Ohio HB 509. The bill proposes to legally expand the roles of “social workers” to people who are not licensed social workers.

Image courtesy of the NASW Ohio Instagram page
Image courtesy of the NASW Ohio Instagram page


I’ve written about Ohio House Bill 454 before. Legislators shelved the bill for the remainder of 2022; but it returns in 2023. Ohio House Bills 454 and 616 are government intrusion into the State-licensed mental health, education, and medical fields.

This further government intrusion is concerning. Legislative attempts to discredit medical, educational, and mental health professionals and their data-driven decisions in their respective fields – while establishing the norm of state interference and mandates – is fascism, actually. The legislation targets Black lives and trans lives. We can see the  social contagion in the emboldened hate group activity in Ohio.

Social contagion is real. The recent massacre at Club Q was directly connected to incessant, poisonous, content by anti-trans account Libs of TikTok. When the government systemically injects fascist ideals into politics, they emboldens individuals to act in immediate, intimate, and sometimes impulsive, ways.

screenshot shows a post saying it is from Ohio Proud Boys scheduling a protest of a children’s drag show upcoming in Columbus, Ohio


The Ohio GOP recently made news for attempting to dismantle it’s Board of Education. Ohio House Bill 616 aims to strip educators of their license for teaching “the 1619 Project” or using gender-inclusive language. School district superintendents would have the authority revoke a teaching license.

This is absolutely unheard of, for locally elected officials to have that power over licensed professionals. State Board typically manage penalties and authorizations for licensed professionals – like educators.

Not to be outdone by the State of Florida, Ohio’s House Bill 616 targets both gender-non-conforming language AND factual American history in a stunning work of intersectional white violence.

The most awkward part of Ohio House Bill 616 (a bill about education) is its language suggests that racism “does not exist” but the bill itself targets individuals who are racially othered by  white people in white systems.

If a school board or superintendent can take an educators license at a whim, or misinterpretation of an outlandish law, bigger problems loom. This law would swing open the door to obvious nepotism and favoritism at best; a cesspool of racist violence, at worst.

As a parent of young children myself who watched in horror while my own school superintendent made racist and homophobic statements publicly, it is terrifying beyond belief to envision such a future where this man or others like him could revoke a teaching license.

The Columbus Police Historically Harm Black People

The Columbus Division of Police has a world-renown reputation for killing children and Black people, specifically. Since the state lockdown in March 2020 to the date of this writing in November, 2022, deputies and police officers involved in the killing of citizens include:

a selfie of Ma’Khia Bryant, smiling and making a peace sign
Say her name: Ma’Khia Bryant


Nicholas Reardon, 23, shot and killed 15 year-old foster child Ma’Khia Bryant on April 20, 2021 within minutes of the Derek Chauvin verdict and within minutes of arriving on the scene.

A photo of Casey Goodson, Jr. with a young boy smiling joyfully while riding on Casey’s shoulders. Greenery and a road are behind them. Casey is Smiling and camera-facing, with his hair longish and curly in front of his eyes.

Michael Jason Meade, 42, shot and killed 23 year-old Casey Goodson Jr. in broad daylight in front of his grandmother’s home on December 4, 2020. It is noted that since being charged with murder and reckless homicide almost one year ago, “Jason” Meade has been recorded threatening alleged people he thinks are monitoring him.

Meade also has a history of sharing his seeming penchant for violence, according to recordings of him from the Baptist pulpit.

This piece by Lauren Sue for Daily Kos from last December has a wealth of information regarding Jason Meade’s alleged self-reporting of enjoying killing other people.


“According to data involving fatal police shootings compiled by the Washington Post, the Columbus Division of Police shot 39 people since 2015. Twenty-four of those — or 61% — were Black. According to the latest U.S. Census data, the city’s Black population is roughly 29%.” — Bennett Haeberle, 10TV, September 5, 2022.

The Legal & Social Realities For Marginalized Peoples

The Black, Indigenous, and “othered” groups directly targeted by Ohio House Bill 616 experience much worse injustice than white queers. Sadly, the systems most impacted by this legislation are also very white and Christian-led.

Because of that, I challenge white professionals to self-examine the realities we live in and how they impact our livelihoods, egos, ability to care for our families. I challenge my peers to practice ethically and plan for the future; a good future, worth living for ourselves and our entire community.

If you want to foster community in Central Ohio, I recommend becoming involved with the following orgs:

Donate – BQIC is a grassroots collective working towards a world where Black LGBTQIA+ people can live safe, healthy, and…


Donate – People’s Justice Project


Featured Photo: Columbus, Ohio, December, 2020. Photo courtesy Michelle Love-Davis.



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