The opioid crisis isn’t just killing Hancock County residents, it’s putting intense pressure on the budgets of child and adult protective services as well.
As a result, Hancock County Job and Family Services is asking voters to do something for the first time: pass a property tax to help it carry out its mission.
The 1.2-mill tax will appear on the May 8 ballot as Issue 7. If approved, it would generate $2.3 million per year for 10 years. The cost breakdown would be $42 a year per $100,000 property.
The request comes at a time when state funding hasn’t kept pace with an increased demand for services. We urge voters to support it. A defeat of the issue would mean our most vulnerable citizens, youth and seniors, would be underserved.
The numbers support passage.
The cost to put Hancock County children in foster care has increased by 56 percent between 2015 and 2017 as the number in foster care grew from 72 to 91. The agency will need an additional $553,000 just to cover foster care expenses this year.
Much of the need for foster care comes from our continuing drug abuse problems. Children who are born addicted and those who live in homes with addicted parents are increasingly being placed in foster care.
Special needs add to the costs, as does a shortage of foster care homes in Hancock County, since it means many have to be placed in homes further away.
Meanwhile, more of our elderly residents are being taken advantage of financially or physically harmed by somebody in their family with a substance abuse issue.
Between 2014 and 2017, adult protective services recorded a 39 percent increase in abuse, neglect and exploitation cases. There were 162 such reports in 2014, and 225 in 2017.
Despite the caseload increase, the JFS has just $30,000 budgeted in 2018 for adult protective services. That’s simply inadequate.
JFS receives funds from federal, state and county sources, with the county’s share about 50 percent of the total.
The state’s share has fallen woefully short. Despite being the seventh-largest state, Ohio ranks last in per capita state funding for children services. Even if the state’s share doubled, Ohio would still be 50th in the nation.
The funding problems for counties may only get worse. More than 15,000 Ohio children are in foster care, up from about 12,300 in 2010. Some predict the number will be 20,000 by 2020.
Statewide, foster care costs rose $45 million last year alone.
Tax levies, like Hancock’s, have become increasingly common as the drug epidemic wears on.
JFS in 13 counties had tax issues on the ballot in November for child and adult protective services, and 12 were approved. There are now 48 counties with voter-approved levies to help cover the cost of children and adult services.
Hancock County should be next. Voters should say yes to Issue 7 to help bridge the funding gap for critical services that are needed for both foster care youth and a growing senior population.