Mental Health and Recovery Levy addresses local needs

By Terri Becker

Guest columnist

The Tri-County Board of Recovery and Mental Health Services is asking voters in Miami, Darke and Shelby counties to renew its 0.6-mill Mental Health and Recovery Levy for the purpose of providing counseling and supportive services to children and adults through the operation of alcohol and drug addiction programs and mental health programs.

This is nothing new. The board has been supported by a local levy since voters first approved a levy in 1973. Every five years, voters have approved, and by increasing margins. Two out of three voters in 2016 supported the levy. Never in the 53-year history of the Tri-County Board has the levy been more important. We fought through an unprecedented opioid epidemic from 2015-2018, and just as we were making positive strides against heroin, Oxycontin, and other opioids, the world and our local communities were besieged by the COVID-19 epidemic.

The full, long-term effects of the pandemic and the accompanying economic and social impacts may not be known for years or decades, but this much is clear: individuals, families, businesses and institutions were hurt by it. Depression and anxiety doubled. Drug overdoses spiked. And at the same time, the mental health and recovery agencies are facing the same workforce challenges as retail, hospitality, education, healthcare, and manufacturing sectors.

Not all is doom and gloom – the pandemic accelerated and showed how critical is the need for investments in telehealth and mobile workforces. The Tri-County Board and its contracted provider agencies continue to make investments in and seek additional funding streams for modernizing and mobilizing behavioral health services, finding new ways to meet the needs where people live and work.

The Tri-County Board has engaged with schools throughout the three-county service area to incorporate best-practice, evidence-based programming for prevention and wellness. Many schools are embedding mental health and prevention practitioners in their buildings, meeting children where they learn and families where they live.

The Tri-County Board does not ask for your support lightly. We appreciate every vote in support of the renewal. We calculate the financial impact at less than $20 per year or 5 cents per day for a typical homeowner. And yet this small investment spread across all three counties accounts for 30 cents of every dollar available to the board to continue to address local priorities.

We are accountable to voters every five years, but once a year the board’s finances are reviewed by a Tri-County Budget Commission, made up of the Auditor, Treasurer and Prosecutor of each county. This commission determines that the revenues raised by the levy are needed and that the funds are being spent appropriately. The board is also audited every year by the Auditor of the State of Ohio, and the audit reports are posted publicly. Another level of accountability is in the makeup of our board. The board may have up to 18 members, which are apportioned to the counties by population. Of those 18, 10 are appointed by the respective county commissioners. The board is accountable and responsible with your tax dollars.

Mental illness is common, and its impacts are significant in terms of lost productivity, absenteeism, health complications, and quality of life. But treatment works – people recover. And recovery is beautiful!

More information about the 0.6 mill renewal can be found at YESforMentalHealth.com. More about the Tri-County Board, including resources for treatment and other supports, can be found at tcbmds.org. Thank you for your continued support of the Mental Health and Recovery Levy.