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Tribute to Luceille Fleming

Location: Washington, DC


    Mr. DEWINE. Mr. President, I rise today to pay tribute to an extraordinary individual, a woman of great vision and passion who has dedicated her life to helping people in their time of need. Her name is Luceille Fleming, and she just retired this past Friday, ending her over 14-year tenure as the first and only Director of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.

    Luceille Fleming is an extremely intelligent, wonderfully caring woman who has given so much to the State of Ohio. To say that she will be missed is an understatement, because Luceille Fleming built this Ohio agency from the ground up and turned it into a nationally-recognized statewide drug and alcohol treatment network. Simply put, Luceille Fleming has spent the last 14 years saving lives. She led the effort to create a system that has helped countless Ohioans to help themselves, to reclaim their lives from all-consuming addictions.

    While I have come to the Senate Floor today to speak about Director Fleming's contributions to my home State of Ohio, she actually came to Ohio from Pennsylvania. After graduating from Chatham College in Pittsburgh, Director Fleming began her career as a communications specialist for a CBS affiliate in Harrisburg, PA. She then went on to found and run her own company called Dunhill of Harrisburg. In these positions, she cultivated her skills as a great leader and a great motivator.

    In 1977, she became the executive director of the Alcoholism and Addiction Association of Pennsylvania. In this position, she established the first successful statewide collaboration in Pennsylvania between alcoholism treatment efforts and drug abuse treatment efforts. She brought the treatment groups together with the recognition that both alcoholism and drug abuse are addictions. Today, that connection between alcoholism and drug addiction seem so logical. It has become an accepted notion. But it was Luceille who was at the forefront of bringing these two groups together.

    From there, Luceille was appointed deputy secretary of Health for Drug and Alcohol Programs in Pennsylvania. She supervised the policy and implementation of the State's drug and alcohol treatment effort. This experience at the State government level gave Luceille insights into how an effective statewide alcohol and drug addiction services agency should be run.

    Fortunately, Luceille was willing to bring these insights to our State of Ohio. In 1989, Luceille was hired after an exhaustive search to develop a cabinet-level agency to manage a statewide substance-abuse treatment network. She was hired by then-Governor Dick Celeste. Prior to her arrival, Ohio had two different agencies overseeing drug and alcohol treatment programs. A panel recommended combining the two agencies. Luceille was tasked with the creation of that single agency. It was a huge job but one for which she was more than qualified. While she excelled in her previous positions, as director of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, Luceille truly thrived. Under Director Fleming's leadership, the agency developed innovative programs, reaching out to many different communities. Director Fleming fostered programs for juveniles and children, including youth mentoring, Head Start, and underage drinking prevention. She also established and supervised programs that served women recovering from substance abuse, helping them to reunite with their children. What could be more important than that?

    During her 14-year tenure under three Ohio Governors, including the current occupant of the chair, one of Director Fleming's top priorities was the expansion of the drug courts program which helped reduce recidivism, encouraging the proper treatment of offenders with substance abuse programs. When Director Fleming started, there was only one drug court in the State of Ohio. Today, there are 55. That is thanks, certainly, to the current occupant of the chair, and it is also thanks to Director Luceille Fleming.

    I have had the pleasure of working with Luceille directly, both when I was serving as lieutenant governor and now as Senator. Her experience, her judgment have proven invaluable to me. I have sought her advice many times, both as lieutenant governor and now for the last 9 years as Senator. I can tell Members of the Senate, many days I have picked up the phone and called Luceille to get her advice on a bill or program. She has always been very candid, very open, very helpful, and had very good insight.

    I am grateful for her advice and her expertise as we collaborated on the safe and drug-free schools bill and other bills. Luceille's insights and contributions added tremendously to that law and helped make it a truly effective piece of legislation.

    After Luceille's retirement was announced, I read several news stories about her career and her contributions to the State of Ohio. While reading, I was struck in particular by one quote from Paul Coleman, president of Maryhaven, a substance abuse treatment center in Ohio. He said Director Fleming has "a passion that burns to help people." Paul Coleman's statement says it all. If I had to come up with one statement that sums up Luceille Fleming, it would be she truly has a passion that burns to help people and she has channeled this passion into a life of service and dedication to others.

    Luceille Fleming retired last week at the age of 79—yes, 79—to take a breather and enjoy some time off. Those who know Luceille know she probably won't take a lot of time off and she will plunge back into something. She has been working at the Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services since she was 65 years old. Most people at that point in their life would have decided to take it easy, kick back, and maybe relax. But not Luceille. She instead decided to take a position in government to build a State agency from the ground up. Her energy and her drive are truly remarkable.

    I conclude my remarks with a quote from Luceille herself. Upon taking her position with the agency, somebody asked at her first press conference about her age. To this question she simply said: "Well, you know, I think the hair thins, the hips thicken, but the mind sharpens."

    I cannot speak to the first two parts of that statement, but I can tell you for certain that the last part is true in regard to Luceille. Luceille is sharp, she is bright, she is focused—more today than ever. She has helped so many people during her career, and the people of Ohio and the Nation are, indeed, grateful.

    Luceille, you will be missed at the agency. You will be missed in the State of Ohio. We are grateful for what you have done.

    The Presiding Officer and I had the opportunity to work with Luceille. It was my job as lieutenant governor to work with the current occupant of the chair, my colleague from the State of Ohio, in the drug addiction area, substance abuse area, when I was lieutenant governor and the current occupant of the chair was Governor. Dick Celeste, former Governor, picked Luceille to head up this new agency, to create this new agency. She had run it for a number of years and built it up. Then-Governor-elect Voinovich had taken over, and it was our job to decide whether Luceille was going to continue in that position. We looked all over the State of Ohio and across the country to determine who should occupy that position. After a long search, we decided—then-Governor-elect Voinovich decided that Luceille Fleming, the person who was in that position, was the best person to continue.

    We were not disappointed. We had the opportunity to work with Luceille, to sit in Cabinet meetings with her. I had the chance to work with her many times on a detailed basis to talk about substance abuse problems, alcohol and addiction problems, wrestled with these problems, problems in the prisons, problems in our communities. She is just an amazing person, someone who truly understands the gravity of the problem, how it infests our communities, the damage it does to our young people. She was always optimistic, always believed we could do more, always said: Mike, if we could just move in this direction, if we could just move forward a little bit more, we could save some lives. We could turn some young people's lives around. We can make a difference. Let's try this. Let's try that. We can do better. To see someone now 79 who still has that optimism, who still has that belief—we can do better, we can do more—is a wonderful thing to see.

    I salute Luceille Fleming for her 14 years of service to the State of Ohio, for her optimism, for her vision.

    Luceille, thank you for the work you have done. Those in Ohio who have worked with you are truly grateful for your service to the people of the State. We appreciate it very much. You are a true visionary. You are a dear person, someone who has contributed a great deal to our State and to the people we always serve.

    I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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