by Clermont County Mental Health & Recovery Board
As the country recovers from the shock of the recent Chardon High School and Sandy Hook Elementary tragedies, Clermont County Mental Health & Recovery Board is encouraging local citizens to become more aware of the insufficient resources available in Ohio for adults and children with a mental illness and/or addiction.
The safety net for mental health and substance use disorder services in Ohio has been decimated by the losses in funding over the past decade, leaving many Ohioans without the community-based services they need to be healthy. Additionally, the ability to provide the necessary psychiatric hospitalization is limited. When services are scarce, fewer people receive the help they need and more mental illness and addiction is untreated. This conflict did not occur overnight, it has accumulated over a number of years. Governor Kasich addressed the situation when he announced the allocation of five million dollars to help children and families facing a mental health crisis. Kasich stated, “We have to be concerned about the safety net that exists in our communities for the mentally ill.”
The Board is trying to raise awareness for local citizens concerning the severe need for more resources. Karen Scherra, Executive Director of the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board stated, “Ohioans need to know that the recovery rates for mental illness and addiction are comparable to those of physical illnesses. We know with certainty that TREATMENT WORKS and PEOPLE RECOVER!” When the proper treatment and recovery support services like housing, vocational and peer support services are available, individuals are more likely to make a full recovery. Recovering individuals become productive members of our local communities by working, paying taxes, and keeping their families intact and healthy. Ohio must act in order to make mental illness and addiction prevention, treatment and recovery resources a statewide priority.
The Board believes it is important for the community to work together to eliminate the stigma that keeps many from seeking and receiving treatment. Ohio must have a robust and accessible mental health and addiction services continuum of care that includes prevention and wellness, screenings, engagement, crisis services, outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment, and community support services in order to reduce the likelihood of similar events such as those that occurred in Chardon, Ohio, and Newtown, Connecticut.
The Board thinks that Ohio can do better, they say the need is real and the time to act is now. In coordination with colleagues from across the state, they are proposing the following two-step approach for improving Ohio’s behavioral health safety net: First, the state must make a significant investment of additional General Revenue Funding in the state fiscal year 2014-15 budget for alcohol, drug addiction and mental health prevention, treatment and support services. All Ohioans, regardless of ability to pay or eligibility for Medicaid, need access to treatment and recovery supports such as a place to live, transportation, and peer and vocational supports so they have the opportunity to work and live a meaningful, productive life. Providing this funding will help ensure essential services for children and adults to help keep Ohio’s families healthy, stable and strong.
Only 40% of children and adults struggling with a mental illness can access treatment. Even worse, only 10% of youth and adults with substance abuse disorders get needed treatment. Additionally, individuals with untreated mental illness and substance abuse have total health care costs that are double those without behavioral health conditions. By appropriately funding Ohio’s behavioral health safety net, we can greatly reduce the number of people in our jails and prisons, and reduce the number of individuals with mental illness crowding our hospital emergency rooms and the homeless living on the streets. With more appropriate funding up front, we have the opportunity to save both lives and dollars.
Second, Governor Kasich included Medicaid expansion in his budget and the Board encourages the Ohio General Assembly to further ensure safe and stable children and families in Ohio through additional access to mental health and addiction services by supporting the expansion of Medicaid to 138% of the federal poverty level as allowed by the Affordable Care Act in the state budget. Compelling research shows that individuals with mental illnesses die an average of 25 years earlier than those without a mental illness, and that drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental deaths, with overdose deaths in Ohio increasing by more than 370% since 1999. Having health insurance significantly improves health, quality of life, and mortality rates. It is significant to note that for some Ohioans, expanding Medicaid to 138% of the federal poverty level will provide the first time they have ever been covered under a health insurance plan.
These two steps will help Ohioans in need of behavioral health services to recover and thrive. Additionally, they will secure Ohio’s place as one of the most favorable states in the nation for new businesses, by giving employers access to a mentally healthy and drug-free workforce. The Board recognizes that Governor Kasich and Ohio’s General Assembly have many difficult decisions to make in the 2014-15 biennial budget; however they strongly recommend that investing in the health and well-being of Ohio’s citizens is a sound investment that would help Ohio lead the nation on the path to economic recovery. “Medicaid expansion is great news for many Ohioans with a mental illness or addiction who have been in need of treatment services but unable to obtain them, and we thank the Governor for including it in his budget. Our Board and boards across the state remain committed to working with the General Assembly to not only support the Governor’s Medicaid expansion, but also to secure sufficient resources to ensure critical services are available that Medicaid does not cover which lead to stable families and healthy and safe communities”, stated Karen Scherra.” As the leaders of the behavioral health system in Clermont County, the Board is respectfully asking other local leaders and citizens to support these steps and to join in their continued advocacy to the Governor and Legislature.