ASAP executive lead Jones moves back to retirement

Jeff Jones, executive lead for the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress, has been appointed acting executive director of the organization. He was photographed during an interview at Columbus City Hall in Columbus, Ind., Friday, April 21, 2017. Mike Wolanin | The Republic Mike Wolanin | The Republic

The former Cummins executive who led Bartholomew County’s efforts to create a prevention and recovery system to fight the area’s addiction crisis is moving back into retirement as the new system ramps up into operation.

Jeff Jones, a mechanical engineer who spent 37 years working for Cummins before his retirement, was approached by three community leaders instrumental in the creation of the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress — Columbus Mayor Jim Linhoop, Bartholomew County Commissioner Carl Lienhoop and Columbus Regional Health President and CEO Jim Bickel.

“I think all the stars lined up for all of us,” Jones said as the three executives asked him to lead the effort to create ASAP’s structure and organization, leading to the creation of a system for prevention and recovery.

“The community had figured out by the time they talked to me that we needed a focused task force aimed at not just the opioid crisis and other substance abuse disorders but addiction as a whole,” Jones said. “At that time, I was two-and-a-half years into my retirement from Cummins and it was the right time for me to decide to get committed.”

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Jones believes that there were certainly other individuals in the community who also could have done the job well — but he was there, and it just happened.

And after accepting, Jones said his biggest concern was that the community would know that ASAP was continuing to make progress although much of the work in the beginning was organization and gathering the people with expertise to represent various areas within the prevention, treatment and recovery areas.

“My anxiety initially was the urgency to deliver results,” Jones said about approaching the job. “From Day 1, I felt the community wanted action. And in order to deliver meaningful, lasting results, we needed to go slow in the development strategy.”

A community problem

To get going on the right track, Jones said individuals working on ASAP teams recognized that what was being addressed was a community problem that affects everyone, and that everyone is responsible for trying to solve it.

In an earlier interview, he described gaining confidence from the first ASAP report meeting as this:

“If the first three steps in the process of addressing the issue is, No. 1: Acknowledge we have a problem; No. 2: Build awareness we have a problem; and No. 3: Gain support for addressing the problem, I’d say we’re off and running.”

Having a background from Cummins was enormously helpful in the process, Jones said.

“Cummins training helped immensely,” he said. “We were dealing with complicated problems with many variables that you don’t really control. And we were approaching it in an organized systematic way — that was the problem-solving approach we were trained to utilize at Cummins — and it worked well in a non-Cummins environment.”

Forming the ASAP team was first on the agenda, taking about three or four months to put the people in place. After that, team members helped form the strategy for the prevention and recovery system that was the end goal, he said.

Looking back on the two-and-a-half years spent creating the system with the ASAP team members, Jones said the work evolved in phases, with the first phase being creating a small group of committed people, mostly on a volunteer basis, who worked really well together to understand the problem, learn from each other and from the community.

“In the end, that effort yielded an excellent strategy,” Jones said.

In the second year, Jones said the effort was really about closing the gaps in the available treatment and recovery system and working broadly across the community to gain support.

While some involved in the effort have described the community addiction resources as lacking interconnection and separated into silos of expertise, Jones said he wouldn’t call the separations “hard silos.”

“There were handoffs between service providers and group recovery meetings were being offered. People were helping people. It just wasn’t real efficient — it wasn’t coordinated,” Jones said. “In my mind, the real heroes have been those in Bartholomew County or in any area that help people get the right connections to get the help they need.”

Before ASAP and the new system, those seeking addiction treatment and recovery services often found difficulty in obtaining insurance, locating open beds in in-patient treatment programs, finding openings in outpatient treatment programs, or in recovery, housing or help with writing a resume and getting a job.

With ASAP’s new Hub, which is in operation in the Doug Otto Center at 1531 13th St., a center is now available to help anyone navigate all those issues and more. Services are available to provide help in coordinating treatment, applying for insurance, recovery coaching, life skill development and help with resumes and job applications, community resources and access to recovery meetings.

“There are a lot of heroes and angels out there in the community saving lives everyday,” Jones said of the efforts of those who came before ASAP and those working with the center now. “The agencies in this building (referring to the Doug Otto Center) do it every day.”

Creating a system

Using what was already in place in the community, and seeing where the gaps were located, allowed the ASAP team to come up with a system, which was eventually called the “Prevention and Recovery System.”

Efficiencies were identified and the ASAP team began identifying the people who were already helping individuals recover from addiction and encouraging the community to help those individuals become more effective.

Jones credited Rhonda Fischer’s work as program manager at the beginning of the effort as deeply important to how ASAP got to where it is today. Describing her as a highly skilled problem solver with more than 25 years experience in project management and building processes, Jones said her ability to focus on process, rather than fixes, was crucial.

“It’s processes, not fixes. And then controlling those processes in a way that you get consistent results,” Jones said of the strategy.

The ASAP team soon learned that some of what they hoped to accomplish was at times dependent on other pieces coming to fruition.

“Some things were dependent on others — the adult drug recovery court needed to be established, but for it to work, we needed to have some level of (addiction) treatment capacity,” Jones said of Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Kelly Benjamin’s new problem-solving court.

Having the Hub open and also the establishment of the Columbus Regional Hospital’s Treatment and Support Center, an outpatient addiction treatment program, helped meet that need, he said.

Jones said Project Prevent and the Mark and Wendy Elwood Substance Abuse Prevention Fund were “huge” as far as another piece of the process that needed to be addressed.

The Elwoods donated a half-million dollars and asked the community to match that amount, which community members did within just four-and-a-half months. The new fund, supervised through the Heritage Fund — the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, established Project Prevent, which has distributed more than 40 grants or prevention programs or events around the community.

“If you want to solve the problem, preventing it from happening in the first place is the solution,” Jones said.

Jones also mentioned the Nurse-Family Partnership which pairs first-time low-income pregnant women with a specially-trained registered nurse with direct one-on-one support as critical to the prevention effort.

Continuous improvement

When ASAP got to 2019, Jones said it was time to recognize that the system would need continuous improvement, which will be critical for prevention and recovery in the future.

“We need to communicate to the community our belief that this is a long-term problem and the community system, funded by the city and the county equally, will need to be a community-wide effort in the future,” he said.

Jones credited the uniqueness of Columbus, and the “Columbus Way,” as a contributor to ASAP’s success.

“One of the beauties of Columbus — this was my first major community project to be deeply involved in — but I wasn’t surprised at how so many individuals and organizations immediately volunteered their support to the overall team effort. Once again, that has proven to make a difference.”

Jones said some would call it the “DNA” of Columbus or the culture of the community.

“Whether you go back to Mr. (J. Irwin) Miller’s lasting influence, or the influence of the Miller family, Cummins embraces community involvement by its employees and they demonstrate that they really mean it,” he said.

As Jones has moved out of his leadership role, handing the executive director duties to Doug Leonard, who formerly led Columbus Regional Health and now leads ASAP, he said he feels a great deal of gratitude toward all the individuals who helped create ASAP and the new system for addiction prevention, treatment and recovery.

“My appreciation for how hard people work,” Jones said, “and how committed they are to helping other people — that has been humbling,” Jones said.

He is also grateful for how much those individuals have taught him — social workers, teachers, first responders, those who work in the Bartholomew County Jail, police officers. He also mentioned the senior leaders in local churches, judges, school administrators and elected officials.

“I’ve lived here almost 40 years, and what I thought I knew, vs. what I learned, is pretty humbling,” Jones said. “I have a lot more awareness and appreciation for what these people do every day.”

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For more on the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress, visit

To find help at the ASAP Hub, visit or call 812-418-8705. The Hub is located at 1531 13th St. in the Doug Otto Center in Columbus and accepts walk-ins.

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If you have questions about substance use disorder or are seeking recovery, call 812-418-8705 or visit

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The Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress accepts donations through its website at

Volunteers who are interested in helping the Hub should contact Volunteer Services Manager Tracey Clark at [email protected] or call 812-418-8705.