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Karen S. Olnhausen (1957-2017)


Karen Sue Olnhausen


Karen S. Olnhausen, a nurse who worked nearly 40 years to help children and families with psychiatric and substance abuse disorders, died Friday at Ebeid Hospice in Sylvania. She was 60 years old.

Her health began declining last fall and she had liver disease, her brother, Mark Olnhausen said. Miss Olnhausen was at the top of the list for a transplant, when she died Friday, he added. 

She worked as a nurse, helping children and families with psychiatric and alcohol and drug abuse. She followed her mother’s footsteps in becoming a nurse and she “had a drive to make kids better,” her brother said. 

Most recently, she was working as the Director of Programs and Services at the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County. She oversaw the programs and services within the board’s system of care by ensuring prevention, treatment, and recovery services for children, adolescents, and adults. 

“She saved countless lives through her work,” said Scott Sylak, Executive Director of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County.

She was still employed, although was on sick-leave, Mr. Sylak said. It will be difficult to replace her, he added. 

“She prided herself on being very detailed and accurate for what she was recommending,” Mr. Sylak said . “When it was time to advocate for kids services or evidence-based practices, she always went the extra mile to learn as much as she could and understand the situation.”

In 2000, she joined the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County as the director of youth Services, Mr. Sylak said. 

“She worked with kids when they were sometimes at their worst in terms of their psychiatric condition. That’s actually when she was her best,” he said. 

Before that, she worked as a clinical manager at Rescue, Inc., working with youth who were in psychiatric mental health crises. 

Since 2009, she participated in the development of the Behavioral Health/Juvenile Justice Initiative in Lucas County. She also helped facilitate the development of the Mental Health Youth Task Force, Wrap Around, Multi-Systemic Therapy, and other services.

In the 1980s, she was the head nurse of the Adolescent Psychiatric of Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center. Then in the 1990s, she planned, developed, and implemented the Child and Adolescent Crisis Services for youth in Lucas County. 

This past year, she received the “Whatever It Takes” away from the Multi-Systemic Therapy Services organization.  

“She helped thousands of people that nobody will every know,” said Mr. Olnhausen. “She never sought recognition for anything. She would help people any never ask for anything in return.”

Miss Olnhausen was born June 10, 1957, in Toledo to Frederick and Joan Olnhausen. 

She was a 1975 graduate of Central Catholic High School and she grew up in the historic Old West End neighborhood. 

She attended Owens Community College to complete her registered nursing certificate, and she later graduated from The University of Toledo with her bachelor’s degree in nursing, and obtained her masters from the former Medical College of Ohio. 

As a teenager, she worked at the former Sweden House Buffet, where she met some of her long-time friends, her brother said. 

She never married or had children, but was known as everyone’s aunt — whether they were blood related or not — her brother said. She had several nieces and nephews and she attended as many of the children’s events as she could.

“She was just a wonderful person. She smiled a lot and she had a great sense of humor,” Mr. Olnhausen said. 

She enjoyed being with family, traveling, and hosting an annual Halloween party, where she always dressed up as a witch, her brother said.

Preceding Miss Olnhausen in death were her father, Frederick, and her sister, Janet Marie.

Surviving are her loving mother, Joan, and brothers: Fred, Mark, Jeff, and Scott Olnhausen.

Karen's life celebration will be from 3 to 8 p.m. Sept. 6 at Urbanski Funeral Home, 5055 Secor Road in Toledo. A Rosary will be prayed at 4 p.m. Family will also receive friends at 9 a.m. Sept. 7 until the Funeral Mass begins at 10 a.m. in Rosary Cathedral, 2535 Collingwood Ave. Private interment will be held at a later date in Calvary Cemetery.

Contributions can be made to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at

Contact Allison Reamer at, 419-724-6506 or on Twitter @AllisonRBlade.

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