Mental health levy on primary ballot

By LOU WILIN
STAFF WRITER
Allen County voters will consider an additional 1-mill, five-year tax in the May 6 primary election to offset $3.2 million in lost revenue per year for mental health and recovery services.
More than $3 million of the reduction came from state cuts in recent years. Property tax and federal reductions account for the rest. Meanwhile, mental health needs are growing and opiate addiction has reached epidemic proportions, said Michael Schoenhofer, executive director of the Mental Health & Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize and Hardin counties.
To maintain prevention and treatment, the agency has been spending emergency funds, he said. This year and again next year, it will spend $1 million in emergency funds and deplete them by 2016 if the agency gets no more funding, Schoenhofer said.
The levy, which would generate $3.2 million per year, would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $35 per year, according to the Allen County auditor’s office.
The levy would pay for basic services like psychiatry and counseling, and housing and employment assistance.
“There are a lot of people who need extra assistance when they are trying to get back into the job market. Maybe because of their illness, they have not been able to work, but now they are in recovery. They are taking their medications. They are now able to join the workforce, but … they need a job that they can do,” Schoenhofer said.
Those who have been out of the workforce also need coaching on good work habits, which the mental health board provides.
To fight the growing opiate epidemic, the mental health board would like to open addiction recovery centers in Allen and Auglaize counties, like the one in Kenton.
“Every court in our three counties is literally being overwhelmed with the number of people who are showing up with opiate addiction,” Schoenhofer said. “Our agencies are saying that … half the people who show up for treatment have some kind of opiate addiction. It’s literally become an epidemic.”
An additional need is crisis services for children with mental illness, he said.
Bluffton
The Bluffton School District is seeking a renewal and increase of a 4.9-mill, five-year levy for operations.
It’s a renewal in that the levy was for 4.9 mills when voters first approved it in 1999. It will be an increase in that it would be based on district property values in 2014 instead of 1999. So the tax would generate $248,392 more per year than it has in the past, or a total of $714,392 per year.
That would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an estimated $158.16 per year, or $64.75 more per year than currently, according to the Allen County auditor’s office.
The school district has worked at controlling costs without sacrificing quality, Superintendent Greg Denecker said. Eight teachers have retired and not been replaced in the past six years. Four bus drivers have left in recent years and not been replaced. The district also has lost over $1.2 million in annual state funding over the past five years.
So the levy is needed to keep Bluffton schools financially stable, Denecker said.
Denecker has no plans to add staff if the levy passes.
“With the cutbacks that we have made, we have been able to stay stable, but obviously you can’t continue to do cutbacks forever,” he said. “We have tried to be as lean as possible … There comes a point where if we were to cut any more there is going to be a more major impact to our learning of our students and to the overall school district.”
4th House District
Allen County voters this year will elect a new representative to the Ohio House. Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, is not seeking re-election because of term limits. Two Republicans are seeking their party’s nomination on May 6 to succeed him: Kurt Neeper, 33, of Lima; and former Ohio Supreme Court justice and former state Sen. Bob Cupp, 63, of Lima.
Bo Huenke, 58, of Elida, is unopposed for the Democratic nomination for the 4th House District seat.
Wilin: 419-427-8413 Send an E-mail to Lou Wilin

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