NEWARK — Since 2008, the Community Mental Health and Recovery Board, which serves Knox and Licking counties, has seen governmental funding drop by $1.9 million. Another $1 million in federal stimulus dollars are slated to end in June 2011. According to Wendy E. Williams, CMHRB executive director, this represents a 27 percent decrease in discretionary dollars available to provide critical prevention and treatment services, just since 2008.
“We just can’t sustain that kind of reduction without seeing a huge impact on services across the board,” Williams said.
She said she was frightened that this could happen at a time when the demand for mental health services is up, do to the recession and high unemployment.
Services sponsored by CMHRB include the 24-hour 2-1-1 mental health hotline; alcohol, tobacco and illegal drug education/prevention activities; crisis services, counseling and suicide prevention; and services for victims of domestic violence. The CMHRB’s service providers in Knox County are the Freedom Center, The Main Place, Moundbuilders Guidance Center, New Directions and Pathways of Central Ohio.
Williams pointed out this is a separate levy from the levy passed in 2008 to support the Department of Developmental Disabilities, which serves a different population. The CMHRB currently has a 1-mill levy continuing through 2015, but the one being voted on May 4 is an additional 0.45-mill levy that would last for 10 years. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 house $13.78 every year, and would raise $500,000 in Knox County. The amounts raised in each county will remain in the county for use there, Williams said, adding that 95 cents of every dollar goes directly to services.
Williams has no illusions about the ease of passing a tax levy in the current economy.
“It’s difficult to ask people for money right now, but Knox County has always been a strong supporter of mental health levies in the past,” Williams said. “It’s really important to maintain that safety net at a time when so many are in need.”