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Police lieutenant, alumna honored by community agency

UT Police Lt. Tressa Johnson and University alumna Natalie Zerucha were honored this month by the Lucas County Mental Health Recovery Services Board.

Johnson was named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

UT alumna Natalie Zerucha, left, and UT Police Lt. Tressa Johnson were recognized by the Lucas County Mental Health Recovery Services Board. Zerucha received the Consumer Involvement of the Year Award, and Johnson was named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

“This recognition and honor confirms my peer’s appreciation of the work we do daily in the area of helping others during crisis or a traumatic experience,” Johnson said. “It means my passion for mental health recovery has now become an honor, and I am greatly appreciative of this honor.”

Johnson implemented the first domestic violence program through the UT Police Department. In addition, she has been involved in numerous events, including the Healthy Relationship Seminar, which shows students what a healthy relationship looks like, and the Healthy Boundaries Program, which promotes strong relationships among students.

She is a Lucas County Drug Addiction Response Team officer and is sent to hospitals to help drug-addicts find appropriate, long-term treatment while diverting them away from the criminal justice system. And she is a member of the Crisis Intervention Team.

UT Police Chief Jeff Newton believes Johnson’s service has made a notable contribution to the safety of the community.

“Her tireless commitment to service routinely goes far beyond what one could reasonably expect from a single person,” Newton said. “Tressa’s passion and unique mental health training and credentials make her a truly irreplaceable asset to the community.”

Being aware of the crime statistics in the community, Johnson said it is difficult to not be engaged.

“According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in three college students reported prolonged periods of depression, one in four college students have a diagnosable illness, and one in seven college students reported engaging in abnormally reckless behavior,” she said. “When you have knowledge of this type of data, we as law enforcement officers have no choice but to be engaged, well-trained on how to intervene, assist, and provide resources as needed to our students.”

Johnson wants to have a positive impact on students and Toledo community members.

“The idea of helping others in need and helping to create and maintain a safe environment for people to live is why I wanted to become a police officer,” she said. “Knowing I could be part of educating a community about personal safety and taking every interaction as a teachable moment is why I wanted to become an officer for The University of Toledo.”

The Lucas County Mental Health Recovery Services Board also honored Zerucha, who received the Consumer Involvement of the Year Award, which recognizes her involvement in the community, her ability to give time without expectation, and her act of giving strength and dignity to those in need.

“I am speechless to be recognized among community leaders that have been doing this for some time,” Zerucha said. “It means the world to me.”

Being aware of the drug statistics throughout the community, Zerucha founded “Be-WISE-er,” an event that serves to educate the Toledo community on substance abuse and help those who are at risk.

“Three years ago, we noticed an opioid and substance epidemic in the Toledo area,” Zerucha said. “We wanted to educate the college community on how bad substances are and how they are being abused over time.”

Since 2016, more than 900 people have attended the annual event, which was presented by the Alpha Kappa Psi Chapter at the UT College of Business and Innovation.

Zerucha graduated from the University this month and received a bachelor of business administration degree in management and marketing.