Vandalism at business has city helping with Canton Friendship Center move

Canton leaders looking for centralized location

CANTON, Ohio - Shelly Busch of Canton has been the owner of California Rays Tanning Salon on Cleveland Avenue NW for the past six years.

Busch claims she and her customers have been dealing with panhandling and verbal harassment from clients visiting the Canton Friendship Center next door for years, but explained back on Aug. 26 the situation got out of hand.

Busch called Canton police to her salon after a client allegedly used a large metal pipe to try and break through the glass door of her business.

"He said 'I'm going to kill you, I'm going to kill you,'" Busch said. "I was on the phone with my daughter and she said 'Why does somebody want to kill you?' and I said 'I don't know, but let's get off the phone so I can call 911.'"

Police report the suspect was arrested and charged with vandalism and two counts of felonious assault.

"I really appreciate all the great work the Friendship Center is doing, but I was so concerned for my customers because I didn't know what this man was going to do," said Busch.

The Canton Friendship Center has been providing critical food, recreation and financial training to individuals with mental health concerns at its Cleveland Avenue location since 2003.

NewsChannel5 contacted Canton Councilman John Mariol, who was aware of issues in that neighborhood, and explained how the city is working with the Canton Friendship Center to find it a new location.

"We've secured multiple locations that are possible new locations for the Friendship Center," Mariol said. "A lot of these locations are more centrally located, easier to access and actually cheaper per month than what the Friendship Center is paying currently."

Canton Friendship Center Executive Director Heather Voris told NewsChannel5 she has been diligently working with her board to find a better location and hopes city leaders will continue their efforts.

"This is not the most appropriate location. We want to be downtown because it gives better access to the clients for the other services that they need," Voris said.

Voris said she doesn't currently have the funds to increase her staff at the center. Voris explained client needs have doubled in the past 10 years, while at the same time her agency has experienced dramatic cuts in funding.

Voris said she believes much more must be done to address the needs of individuals with health concerns.

"I think everyone has a responsibility, not just the city and the government, the community members, the neighbors,' Voris said. "Mental health issues impact one in four individuals. That means someone you know, some you know personally, a family member, a friend."

"This is a hits close to home issue for many people, and we can't solely rely on the government and governmental entities to take care of this. We need to start having wider discussions where the community can get involved, and the government together."

Voris hopes a critical grant will come through in July 2014 that will allow for the creation of a centralized recovery facility that will provide all needs under one roof.

The Canton Friendship Board of Directors issued the following statement in response to the vandalism incident, and the quest to move the facility.

Jane James, Executive Director of National Alliance on Mental Illness of Stark County told NewsChannel5 the State of Ohio has experienced perhaps as much as 30 percent in funding cuts over the past two years.

A large part of the Canton Friendship Center Budget comes from the Mental Health Recovery Services Board of Stark County.

Board Marketing Director Paula Mastroianni told NewsChannel5 more education is needed when it comes to breaking down the stigma that is unfortunately associated with an incident like the vandalism that occurred at the California Rays Tanning Salon.

"We as a society stigmatize in many ways," said Mastroianni. "A significant amount of stigmatization comes from the need for 24/7 news cycles to have sensational content to drive viewership."

"The reality is people can live fulfilling lives with having MI and addiction disorders. Getting help though both counseling and in some cases, taking medications lead to recovery."

"Many people are willing to talk about their illnesses more than ever before which helps reduce stigma significantly and media has started to delve into the issue to bring stories of recovery to the forefront for which we are grateful."

Meanwhile the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Stark County is hosting an awareness and health walk in North Canton on Saturday, Oct. 12.  All the information you need to participate in the health walk can be found on this website.

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