Issue 8: Support mental health services in Lucas CountyWritten by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
The Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Lucas County (MHRSBLC) has renewal of its 0.5-mill levy on the Nov. 4 ballot, and I encourage you to vote yes on Issue 8. This 10-year levy, first passed in 1985, will continue providing $3.4 million to support behavioral health services. As a renewal, it is not a new tax, and costs the owner of a house valued at $100,000 just $15.31 a year.
In the 10 years that I proudly represented western Lucas County in the Ohio House of Representatives I learned about the challenges individuals and families face when they themselves or a loved one experience a behavioral health disorder. I worked for successful passage of Ohio’s insurance parity law, which required that insurance companies provide equal coverage for mental illness. But as we all know, insurance coverage may fall short in the face of serious, debilitating illness.
Changes in insurance laws and the expansion of Medicaid coverage are helpful in providing treatment for those who need it. However, the needs of a person or a family coping with serious mental health problems are many and varied.
People with serious mental illness are often unable to maintain a full-time job, and some are unable to work at all. Housing support services, many provided by Neighborhood Properties Inc., allow people with mental illness to live in the least restrictive, and least costly, environment.
Peer and family support services, such as those provided by Thomas Wernert Center and NAMI of Toledo provide essential socialization opportunities that increase stability and keep people out of crisis as well as provide families with coping skills.
Over 500 Lucas County first responders have completed CIT (Crisis Intervention Training). CIT teaches emergency personnel to respond appropriately to a person experiencing a mental health crisis. Without training, a person in crisis and the first responders themselves are at increased risk of harm if the situation becomes unsafe.
Lucas County is facing an opiate/heroin crisis. The Lucas County Coroner’s Office reported eight opiate/heroin deaths in 2010. In 2013, there were 80 deaths. By the end of this year, we could see 150 deaths. (Source: Toledo Free Press, July 31, 2014)
The Lucas County Board expanded treatment services and is employing new approaches to stem the tide of addiction and death, but it is still not enough. More treatment services are needed. Another approach is to stop addiction before it starts. A new program from Harbor is educating senior citizens about the dangers of prescription misuse. Board funded opiate/heroin addiction education programs are available to both children and to the community at large from Swanton Area Community Coalition, Sylvania Community Action Team, Harbor, UMADAOP, and others.
The Lucas County Board is governed by 18 volunteers providing stewardship of tax dollars entrusted to its care. Just six cents of each dollar goes to pay staff and other overhead. Accountability is required in each service contract with comprehensive monitoring, tracking of system-wide outcomes, and continuous quality improvement.
Last year, 26,000 individuals received direct services supported by MHRSBLC. That number is expected to rise by at least 2 percent this year and in subsequent years. The State of Ohio reduced MHRSBLC funding by $2.5 million this year. If Issue 8 fails to pass, the services presented above and others will likely be reduced or eliminated.
Lucas County citizens can be justifiably proud of the comprehensive system of behavioral health care that their generosity has provided in the past. For healthier and safer Lucas County communities, vote yes on Issue 8.
Lynn Olman, a former Ohio State Representative, is a member of the Lucas County Mental Health Services Board.