On a Roll to Recovery

Groups help people with addiction, mental health issues through exercise

Spending time on the road might be beneficial for those on the road to recovery.

“The benefits of physical activity during a recovery journey are well-documented,” said Dr. Brian Merrill, OneFifteen assistant medical director. “There is a lot of literature about exercise and mental health, including addiction. And in some studies, exercise has been shown to be as effective as medication.”

Merrill, an avid cyclist himself, began conversations with Bike Miami Valley executive director Laura Estandia in 2019 to look at ways to utilize bikes in programs for patients looking to reverse the course of addiction. A partnership soon began and, not long after, they pursued funding opportunities.

The Roll to Recovery proposal recently came to fruition as OneFifteen – a not-for-profit clinical care and rehabilitation campus for people in recovery – was awarded a $6,000 national grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership to support the mental health of its clients through bicycling. The funds are being used to provide helmets and annual Link passes to patients and staff of OneFifteen who complete a cycling safety course with Bike Miami Valley. Trainers recently conducted the first class for 25 patients and staff members.

“We were thrilled to receive a grant to do specific outreach and engagement with the recovery community,” Estandia said. “Our hope is to break down barriers to bicycling through this program so that OneFifteen clients can reap all of the mental and physical health benefits cycling offers.”

The Better Bike Share Partnership (BBSP) – a collaboration funded by The JPB Foundation to build equitable and replicable bike share systems – recently selected OneFifteen as one of 12 recipients nationally of a mini-grant.

“Better Bike Share mini-grants allow us to support and share lessons from small, innovative projects,” said Zoe Kircos, director of grants and partnerships at PeopleForBikes and manager of BBSP. “We look forward to learning from these grantees and seeing how their strategies help more people access bike share systems.”

The program is getting underway at an ideal time as Link recently installed a bike share station on the campus of OneFifteen in Dayton’s Carillon neighborhood. The Link: Dayton Bike Share system now has 34 hubs with 225 green bikes and 100 electric assist bikes in its fleet.

“We really hope that everyone, even if they only ride one time, can use Link as a tool to get around or improve their health,” Estandia said.

Merrill is hopeful that the program – while currently limited to 40 participants – can be a launching point for future cycling initiatives like therapeutic group rides and alumni engagement programs.

“One of the things we know about recovery is that people who have been through it are really helpful to people who are new to it,” Merrill said. “This would be such a wonderful vehicle to begin an alumni or legacy program.”

If the first training session was any indication, the program is already a positive for OneFifteen staff and patients alike.

“Every person we put on a bike had a smile on their face,” Estandia said.

Contact this contributing writer at djuniewicz@gmail.com.

About the Author