Governor DeWine Names OneOhio Executive Director, Department of Children and Youth Director Nominee

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine today announced that he selected Alisha Nelson to become the first executive director of the OneOhio Recovery Foundation, the statewide foundation developing and overseeing plans to distribute a portion of settlement funds from the drug manufacturers and distributors of opioids, and introduced Kara Wente as his nominee to lead the new Department of Children and Youth.

Alisha Nelson, Executive Director of the OneOhio Recovery Foundation
“After careful consideration, I selected Alisha to fill this role because I know that she shares my vision of intentionally using these settlement funds to help Ohioans struggling with substance use disorder for years to come,” said Governor DeWine. “Alisha has turned her passion and life experiences into a career promoting and developing policies that support long-term recovery and the advancement of the behavioral health field.”

When Governor DeWine served as Ohio Attorney General, Nelson led the office’s anti-drug efforts. She then became the first director of RecoveryOhio, bringing together efforts from across state government to prevent, treat, and ensure long-term recovery from substance use and mental health issues.

Most recently, Nelson worked in the private sector supporting behavioral health payment innovations in the Medicaid system.

Nelson holds a Bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and a Master’s of Business Administration from Ohio Dominican University.

The Governor’s Office worked with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Ohio’s local community leaders to create the OneOhio plan to jointly approach settlement negotiations with the drug manufacturers and distributors of opioids. OneOhio ensures a settlement recognizing that every corner of the state has been hit hard by the crisis and outlines how the funds can be used. Fifty-five percent of all Ohio settlement dollars will go directly to the OneOhio Recovery Foundation for addiction abatement and to promote mental wellness.

Kara Wente, Nominee for the Director of the Department of Children and Youth
“Kara has spent her career advocating for the health, safety, and well-being of Ohio’s children,” said Governor DeWine. “I am confident that as we bring programs together to form this new department, she will ensure that we are focusing on seamlessly providing children the supports and services they need to reach their God-given potential.”

Wente has been leading the transition efforts for the Department of Children and Youth.

Wente has been Director of the Governor’s Children’s Initiative since January 2023. Prior to her appointment, Wente served as the Chief Operating Officer for Future Ready Columbus.

With more than 20 years in dedicated state service, Wente has extensive experience in serving the most vulnerable children and families in Ohio. Wente used data as an accountability tool for systemic change during her time as the Assistant Director of Health and Human Services at the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services and led several large-scale system and policy changes as Deputy Director at the Office of Family Assistance.

Wente holds a Master’s in Education and Allied Professions from the University of Dayton and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from The Ohio State University.

The Department of Children and Youth was established in the 2023-2024 operating budget and will focus on the efficient and effective delivery of services to Ohio’s more than 2.5 million children and their families.

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