Hamilton County Commissioners are scheduled to vote this week to decide whether to make three tax updates in the November ballot.
One of these taxes, measures to fund mental health services, includes an increase that could generate approximately $45 million annually, compared to $36.5 million at current mileage rates. is included.
I recommend giving the three-member committee of Denise Driehaus, Stephanie Summerow Dumas, and Alicia Reece the green light to collect the tax in front of voters.
Great need for mental health services
Frankly, we have a mental health crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As reported by Terry DeMio of The Enquirer, more than half (53.3%) of 26,260 students in grades 7 through 12 in Hamilton, Butler, Warren, and Clermont counties at the end of 2021 had high levels of reported stress. In 10 he said 1 had suicidal thoughts. And 60% of the time he has a hard time getting out of a bad mood.
Overdose deaths among teens and young adults escalated in 2020 and 2021. Ohio Department of Health records show that southwestern Ohio saw a 37% increase in deaths between the ages of 15 and 24 from 2019 to 2020.
The Hamilton County Commission of Mental Health and Recovery Services does not provide direct care. Rather, it provides funding and coordination services from partnered mental health providers for adults and children with mental disorders and/or who are dependent on alcohol and drugs.
The agency’s independent analysis shows that while the number of residents needing mental health care continues to grow, the number of caregivers is expected to decline due to low pay and burnout.
Funding not keeping up with inflation
The current rate of 2.99 Mils (which costs property owners $40.93 per year for every $100,000 home value) has been in effect since 2008. With the tax increase, the Commission on Mental Health and Recovery Services warned that it would not be able to maintain the current level of services, let alone meet the expected increase in the number of people seeking help.
In addition to being approved by a citizen-led tax review board, tax renewals and increases naturally have community support. At the county commission meeting on July 28, more than 40 voted in favor of the levy, with many sharing personal stories about how they and their families have benefited from the services they have received through the county. Shared. It doesn’t matter that there is no organized opposition to the levy.
Agencies have a good track record
The Tax Investigation Board hired consultant Health Care Associates to conduct an in-depth analysis of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board. We found the agency to operate efficiently and have strong relationships with providers. Overall, surveyed clients reported that they were satisfied with the service they received.
Last month, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (now the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline) transitioned from a 10-digit phone number to a 3-digit phone and text hotline. People struggling with suicidal thoughts or dealing with mental health issues can now dial or text 988. This number is intended to be as widely recognized as 911, which is used for emergency police and medical assistance. It’s not clear what the local impact will be, but proponents of the tax want to ensure counties are prepared for the expected increase in the number of people seeking help through hotlines. It is said that it is useful for
Also of concern: Individuals who have sought assistance with hardships caused by the pandemic may be ineligible for services under Medicaid after the federal COVID-19 relief program expires in September. Organizers of the levy say local governments should be prepared to fill that expected void.
Tax increases are never popular. But prioritizing mental health funding is a moral imperative, as it means county leaders need to find other cuts to ease the burden on property owners. and.
The proposed taxation is by no means frivolous. In fact, factoring in inflation, it’s still below what the levy funded when it was approved by voters in 2007.
And I can confidently say that the Hamilton County Commission of Mental Health and Recovery Services is not a bloated bureaucracy. With about 24 full-time staff, the hospital is slim compared to the mental health commissions of Cuyahoga County (53) and Franklin County (55).
And finally, we need to understand that for too long, when mental health services have been underfunded and overloaded, we have allowed law enforcement and the court system to fill the gap. There is. The safety net provided by the Board of Mental Health Recovery Services is a more cost-effective and humane way to treat those in need than resorting to the criminal justice system.
We urge the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners to send a clear message of priorities in the unanimous ballot to put the Mental Health Services Tax on the ballot in November.
Beryl Love, Executive Editor of The Enquirer, wrote this editorial on behalf of The Enquirer’s editorial board. The editorial board includes opinion and engagement editor Kevin Aldridge, senior news director Jackie Borchardt, and community board members Jackie Congedo, Mack Mariani, and Rachel Citak.