I am asking each of you to take a moment to contact Senator Bill Beagle and Senator Keith Faber to express concern about the Mid-biennium Budget Review (MBR) and its potentially devastating impact on local behavioral health services. With the current budget proposals the Tri-County Board will face a $669,000 shortfall on July 1, 2014.
The Governor’s budget “review” removed $47.5 million that was allocated to local Boards for the biennium; removed $20 million in Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) dollars to help the State with cash flow issues; and withdrew $10.6 million in Hot Spot funding that will be redistributed to just a few select counties instead of all. Most of these funds would be redistributed to fund statewide projects and initiatives and will not come to the local system. Many reports have incorrectly described this as “new” money being invested into behavioral health services, but in fact it is a redistribution of dollars from local authorities to the State.
The Ohio House of Representatives recently passed a version of the MBR budget closely following HB 369, sponsored by Rep. Robert Sprague (R-Findlay). This opiate treatment bill starts from good intentions – to address the problem of opiate addictions in Ohio - but follows the same approach of redirecting existing funds, rather than appropriating additional money to address the problem. The House version redirects the $47.5 million into regional crisis centers and housing. It puts $5 million towards the $20 million SAPT reduction. But the most concerning of all is that it changes the language in the Ohio Revised Code to alter ORC 340 (the section that authorizes counties to establish boards to oversee and prioritize behavioral health services) to force this behavioral health section to become an opiate service priority. The bill mandates that a spectrum of opiate-centered services must be created in each Board area and that opiate-centered services must be given priority status above mental health and all other addictions and recovery services. Many groups are now raising concern that because of the funding reductions to the local systems, Boards will have to liquidate mental health and other addictions services to meet this mandate.
The argument we have received from some legislators and state officials is that local Boards and communities will be “made whole” with the funding saved through Medicaid Expansion. Our budget projections do not show that this is the case.
So, please, take a moment to contact your Senator and express concern that these budget proposals will put our local system at risk of dismantling important programming. Some talking points you may wish to use:
· The Tri-County Board initiated a 3-year strategic plan in January which has resulted in the expansion of many services: the Board has provided funding to establish residential and detox services for those with addictions; trained staff in Mental Health First aid; established a guardianship program; expanded the payeeship program; and has increased access to hospital beds. All of these initiatives are at risk.
· The strategic plan was the result of planning and discussion with individuals throughout the Miami, Darke and Shelby County area. Local communities’ priorities are being ignored at the expense of State priorities.
· Ask your Senator to keep the $47.5 million in local Board budgets and to provide funding to offset the cash flow issues in the SAPT funds.
· If the heroin epidemic is a real priority, then the legislature should add “real” new resources to the fight, rather than play shell games that threaten the foundation of locally-prioritized mental health, addictions, recover and prevention services.
This matter is urgent – the Senate may act within days. Please call or write now.
Senator Bill Beagle, Senate District 5 (Miami, Southern Darke)
Senator Keith Faber, Senate District 12 (Shelby, Northern Darke)
I am asking you to oppose several measures related to the Mid-Biennium Budget Review bills that, if implemented as they stand now, would have devastating effects on the behavioral health system in Darke, Miami and Shelby Counties. I am asking that you act to restore $47.5 million in funding to local behavioral health boards as originally budgeted for the Biennium, and that you allocate sufficient dollars to address cash flow in Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment.
In addition, while I agree that heroin and other opiates pose a real threat to our area, it is not appropriate to turn the existing behavioral health system into an “opiates first” system; please oppose any change to ORC 340 that would restrict or direct local mental health and addictions boards on how to prioritize local services.
Thank you for hearing my concerns.