With funding cut by nearly 75 percent over the past few years and additional cuts expected next year, the Washington County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Board met for a special meeting Thursday to consider asking voters to support a levy this fall.
The board is considering a 1-mill levy that would restore funding to 2007 levels and ensure services for people who have no insurance or Medicaid. The board's only action Thursday was to allow its executive director to consult with an attorney about the potential ballot issue and to call for another special meeting July 14. A decision must be made about the levy by August for it to be included on the ballot.
David Browne, executive director of the Washington County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Board, said with the current budget, the board has enough funding to provide 12 months of treatment for 83 individual with no insurance. He said three to four people are turned away almost daily because of a lack of funding.
"I think it's now or never," Browne told board members. "This would bring us back to our funding level from five years ago but even then people weren't getting all the services they probably needed."
In 2007, the board had $1.47 million available for non-Medicaid patients. No one was turned away.
Brent Phipps, president of L&P Services, a counseling agency contracted through the board to provide mental health and addiction services to county residents, said the community should be concerned because there's a very large population with little to no help available.
By the numbers
- Total treatment dollars available for Washington County residents without Medicaid or private insurance:
2006: $1.05 million.
2007: $1.47 million.
2008: $1.36 million.
2012 (projected): $388,272.
- Total cost to provide medication and mental health counseling to one individual for 12 months on average: $5,100.
- Current local funding for drug or alcohol detox programs: $18,000, which buys a total of 30 days at a state hospital.
Source: Washington County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Board.
"We're talking about a lot of people - essentially the working poor," he said. "These people would probably qualify for indigent care if they were hurt or sick and needed to go to a hospital but without this funding, they essentially have no access to mental health treatment."
After seeing funding cut by 45 percent in the past two state budgets, and with another seven percent reduction expected next year, David White, chairman of Washington County's Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Board, said he would support putting a levy on the ballot.
"I think this is our best option," he said. "How else are we going to be able to help anyone?"
White noted that Washington County is one of only 14 of Ohio's 88 counties without a mental health levy. The group last attempted to pass a levy in 2008, which would have provided additional mental health counseling services for children. That measure failed with nearly 60 percent of the vote against it.
A 1-mill levy would generate approximately $1.1 million for the board and cost the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 about $35 each year.