OPPA Prevention Awards


The OPPA Prevention Awards honor Ohio's prevention professionals and advocates for their contributions to prevention on the local and/or state level. Only OPPA members can nominate award candidates.

The 2024 OPPA Prevention Awards will be presented at OPPA Conference 2024 on May 2, 2024. Narratives about the 2024 honorees will be featured on this page later that month.

Dawn Thomas
Dawn Thomas, 2023 OPPA Prevention Visionary Award recipient

Dawn Thomas


Dr. Dawn Thomas was honored with the 2023 OPPA Prevention Visionary Award, recognizing an individual for exemplary efforts to advance prevention across Ohio. 

Dawn is Prevention Systems Manager with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services or OhioMHAS. Dawn has been a prevention constant at OhioMHAS and its predecessor, the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, for nearly 20 years.

The reliability of excellence Dawn has brought to our prevention world the last two decades is exceptional. As one prevention colleague states, “Dawn's just always there. When you need her, she’s literally there.” 

Dawn’s prevention reach in Ohio is extensive: She led the charge to infuse the Strategic Prevention Framework into prevention work until it became simply how the prevention field does business. She has been an advocate for prevention growth within the Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Programs. She provided oversight for Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws initiatives. One of her strengths: Taking these typically big, complicated federal programs and making them tangible at both the state and local level.

Dawn has also been a leading voice for health equity and addressing health disparities and social determinants of health within prevention work. She makes concepts of cultural humility and responsivity tangible and actionable, and the ripple effect of her efforts is immeasurable. 

Whether she’s paving the way or taking a collective approach, Dawn shares the journey and the work. Many prevention professionals can attest to this; innumerable professionals in our field have worked with Dawn on grants, projects, or systems development. Her work has influenced local prevention organizations' prevention planning, prevention interventions, and implementation of services.

Dawn has created a legacy through her prevention work. As another colleague states, "Dawn not only strengthens our field and makes our state better, she strengthens us as prevention professionals and makes what we do better."

Julia Rose
Julia Rose, 2023 OPPA Member of the Year Award recipient

Julia Rose


Julia Rose is the recipient of the 2023 OPPA Member of the Year Award, honoring exemplary contributions to the Ohio Prevention Professionals Association and its membership through service to or on behalf of OPPA.

OPPA was founded nearly 40 years ago by prevention professionals who worked with intention and vision to create a home for and provide a voice to Ohio’s prevention community. Our membership’s personal commitment has been a hallmark of our four-decade journey and remains essential to everything we do. Julia has continued that legacy with her contributions to OPPA.

Julia joined the third cohort of the OPPA Young Prevention Professionals Project, or YP3, in early 2022 and jumped right into a leadership role. She was an early spokesperson for the value of YP3 for young professionals, which led to an expansion of the cohort in the summer of 2022, and has continued to be key member of the YP3 team.

In the fall of 2022, Julia joined the OPPA Membership & Networking Team, which coordinates our Networking Lunch & Learns and leads member recruitment, and brought that same energy to the table.

Julia has facilitated Networking Lunch & Learn sessions and worked behind the scenes to make the sessions a reality. She’s also advocated for OPPA membership, recognizing the value of interconnectedness among Ohio’s prevention community.

“Julia has made a significant impact on OPPA through her time, work, and dedication,” states Membership & Networking Team Co-Chair Jodi Salvo. “Her passion for the field is evidenced by the enthusiasm she brings to every project she undertakes.”

Jose Flores
Jose Flores, 2023 OPPA Advocate Award recipient

José Flores


José Flores received the 2023 OPPA Advocate Award, recognizing an individual for exemplary efforts in advancing the mission of the Ohio Prevention Professionals Association. Our mission: OPPA employs the the power of dialogue, education, networking, and advocacy to amplify a united voice for prevention in Ohio.

José, an Ohio Certified Prevention Specialist, is Director of Prevention Services at The LCADA Way in Lorain County, where he leads a team of 11 prevention professionals. He assumed the leadership role in 2018 and, as Shannon Perry, his nominator, notes, began “bringing true professional attributes to the prevention team and showing Lorain County he genuinely cared about building better communities.”

This wasn’t an easy task. José inherited a team of practicum students and new professionals who only had skills and knowledge in universal school-based substance use education interventions.

José changed on-boarding procedures and policies, assigned trainings in foundational prevention building blocks, and added staff to target underserved populations, all with a motto he repeated endlessly: “Personal growth doesn’t happen in a comfort zone.”

Through these efforts, José has broadened the prevention imprint in Lorain County. The team works in coalition work, youth-led prevention, prevention media, and more, applied to prevention of substance use, suicide, gambling, and other mental disorders.

While the community prevention impact is the end result, the engine to get there has been José’s unyielding advocacy for prevention within his own organization. Shannon adds that due to José's efforts, “We are a close team who consider themselves family instead of coworkers." José's advocacy in building a team within The LCADA Way built the foundation for the team's prevention advocacy in the larger community.


Ashley Garcia
Ashley Garcia, 2023 OPPA Community Champion Award recipient

Ashley Garcia


Ashley Garcia is a recipient of the 2023 OPPA Community Champion Award, which recognizes an individual who goes beyond expectations to advance prevention in their community.

Ashley is program administrator of Columbus Public Health Alcohol and Drug Services, leading a team that delivers myriad prevention services, from a school-based intervention for children affected by family substance use to a program targeting youth and young adults in recreation and parks centers.

An Ohio Certified Prevention Consultant, Ashley tethers all her work to prevention fundamentals, including application of the Strategic Prevention Framework. She knows the strength of local prevention foundation is based in prevention science.

Ashley has been a force for prevention in the Columbus area, building relationships with providers and stakeholders, empowering colleagues, and shining a local spotlight on the value of prevention.

A trend among our Community Champion recipients: Their reach extends beyond their local community. Ashley provides prevention training through The Ohio State College of Social Work training series funded by OhioMHAS. She also served on an ad hoc subcommittee of the OCDP Board’s Prevention Committee, developing a framework for training needs for new prevention professionals. Ashley knows state-level systems work supports her team’s local prevention efforts.

“Ashley works tirelessly to promote prevention concepts and express the value of prevention services to the community,” states David Crockron, Ashley’s nominator. "She works to educate staff, community providers, and stakeholders in utilizing prevention programming and optimizing opportunities in service delivery."

Daniel Bennett
Daniel Bennett, 2023 OPPA Community Champion Award recipient

Daniel Bennett


Daniel Bennett is a recipient of the 2023 OPPA Community Champion Award, which recognizes an individual who goes beyond expectations to advance prevention in their community.

Daniel is the Prevention Manager for Greenleaf Family Center in Stark County and has become one of Ohio’s leading suicide prevention professionals. Since 2011, he has delivered suicide prevention interventions to thousands of youth and adults in Summit County. An Ohio Certified Prevention Specialist, Daniel is a Master Trainer for Signs of Suicide, an adult advisor and network leader for Sources of Strength, and a Gatekeeper Trainer for Question, Persuade, Refer, or QPR, and Working Minds, a workplace-based intervention.

Daniel is also actively engaged in environmental prevention work. He chairs the Summit County Suicide Prevention Coalition and serves on the coalition’s Education Committee. He also serves on a committee for the City of Stow focused on mental health and suicide prevention, as well as a collaborative in Barberton.

Daniel has quietly and steadily become one of Ohio’s most experienced and knowledgeable suicide prevention professionals.

Daniel is often influencing prevention outside his own county and statewide. His advocacy has ranged from speaking at press conferences on suicide prevention and mental health in Ohio’s largest cities to advocating for suicide prevention funding and prioritization of evidence-based interventions at the Statehouse.

(Months after receiving this recognition, Daniel began a new role as Director of Coalitions and Strategic Initiatives at Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation.)

Dawn White
Dawn White, 2023 OPPA Community Champion Award recipient

Dawn White


Dawn White is a recipient of the 2023 OPPA Community Champion Award, which recognizes an individual who goes beyond expectations to advance prevention in their community.

An Ohio Certified Prevention Specialist, Dawn is Prevention Specialist and PAX Partner with Wellspring, a behavioral health provider in Clark County, and has anchored prevention programming in Clark County for nearly a decade.

After a 23-year career at Wittenberg University, she joined the staff of Wellspring in 2014. A priority of Dawn’s work has been implementation of the PAX Good Behavior Game, a prevention intervention implemented by elementary classroom teachers. She has been a steadfast coach for local educators implementing PAX GBG and a change agent in securing resources for training and data collection to support implementation and evaluation.

Dawn has also been an integral member of Clark County Partners in Prevention, serving as the coalition’s treasurer and member of its planning committee, connecting local stakeholders to the coalition, and supporting coalition activities from assessment to policy work. She has played an integral role in building the foundation of the coalition and executing community-based strategies.

While Dawn has been a champion for the local community, she has also been a champion for her local prevention colleagues. In 2016, the Mental Health Recovery Board of Clark, Greene and Madison Counties launched the Prevention Professionals Learning Community, or PPLC, a networking and professional development collaborative for the prevention professionals in the three counties. Dawn has been pivotal in the success of PPLC, serving as its Clark County chair from 2017 through 2022. Both through and outside of PLLC, she has been integral to building the three-county prevention community.

"Dawn's ability to bring prevention agencies and schools together has brought awareness to strengths of utilizing data to provide prevention in our schools and community," notes Carey McKee, one of Dawn's nominators. Leslie Hoylman, who also nominated Dawn, adds, “Dawn is a champion for prevention and a strong mentor for those of us in the field."