By Christine Bryant
Franklin County voters will decide this fall whether to approve a tax levy that will help fund drug and mental health services in the community.
The 5-year, 2.85 mill Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County (ADAMH) levy includes a renewal of the current 2.2 mill property tax levy that expires in December 2021. It also includes a .65 mill increase, with collection beginning in 2022.
The need for drug and mental health services has never been greater, says Mackenzie Betts, senior community relations manager with ADAMH.
More than 71 percent of ADAMH resources come from the current 2.2 mill property tax levy that is set to expire next year. The levy millage for ADAMH has not increased in nearly 30 years, while the number of people seeking help has grown dramatically, rising 72 percent since 2014.
On top of this, ADAMH is projecting a $14 million operating deficit due to the rising need for mental health services and the current opioid epidemic.
“ADAMH partners work with more than 30 non-profit agencies to provide behavioral health services to the community in the areas of treatment, crisis, housing, prevention, recovery support and family support,” Betts said. “In 2019, ADAMH and its partners served more than 135,000 people.”
Approximately 85 percent of the new millage will be initially designated to maintain current service levels, she said.
“Potential new investments include enhanced investments in school-based prevention and suicide prevention, additional addiction treatment programs and a new crisis center,” Betts said.
Other new investments will be based on a community needs assessment currently being conducted, she said.
Referred to as Issue 24 on the November ballot, the levy would cost homeowners in Franklin County an additional $1.90 per month, or $22.75 per year, per $100,000 home property value, if passed.
The funds are critically important, Betts says, especially as Franklin County is projected to grow by nearly 8% over the next 10 years – a potential of more than 100,000 new residents.
Approximately 85 percent of individuals who receive support from ADAMH live below the federal poverty level.
“In addition to providing mental health and addiction treatment services to individuals who may not have private health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare coverage, ADAMH supports services that are available to any Franklin County resident,” Betts said.
These include crisis services such as the 24/7 Adult Crisis Line through Netcare, the 24/7 Youth Crisis Line through Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Suicide Prevention hotline through North Central Mental Health.
ADAMH also funds prevention services in every public school district in Franklin County. These services teach youth the risks of substance use and connect at-risk students with ongoing mental health treatment before a crisis emerges.
According to ADAMH, suicide deaths in Ohio have increased by 45 percent over the last decade.
The organization also has been working to reduce stigma and disparate treatment for African Americans and people of color, Betts said.
“National data suggests that minority populations are often misdiagnosed, over-medicated and over-hospitalized that often costs systems of care more money,” she said.
The community needs assessment the organization has launched includes a component that analyzes racial disparities and inequities. ADAMH is also working to retain a more diverse workforce within the behavioral health field, she says.
“ADAMH will continue to develop, promote and support cultural initiatives within the ADAMH system of care and provide cultural competency training for ADAMH provider staff,” Betts said. “ADAMH funds a number of programs to address these important aspects of how services are provided to minority residents, including immigrants and refugees, in our community.”
For more information on Issue 24, go to adamhlevy.com.