At their session July 22, Clermont County Commissioners approved the levies for the ballot:
• The Children’s Protective Services (CPS) five-year levy would stay at its current 0.80 millage or $23.66 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home. The levy would renew on Jan. 1, 2017, and extend to Dec. 31, 2021.
• The MHRB five-year renewal levy, on the same cycle as CPS, is for its current 0.50 millage, plus an additional 0.25. This comes to $23.54 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home.
Local funding through the levy provides 49% of Children’s Protective Services budget, said Judy Eschmann, Director of Clermont County Department of Job and Family Services, which includes CPS. The balance of the budget is provided through state and federal funding.
CPS, which typically has about 350 children in its care at any time, investigates reports of child abuse and neglect. In 2014, it investigated 593 allegations of physical abuse, 186 allegations of sexual abuse, and 551 allegations of neglect. Last year, approximately 40% of cases of children removed from their homes was related to drug use by parents.
“Our ultimate goal is to keep our Clermont County children safe. Through a combination of education, treatment and services, we work with families to create safe homes for children,” said Eschmann.
The spike in heroin abuse in the county is one of the reasons that MHRB is asking for a 0.25 increase in its levy, said Executive Director Karen Scherra. As federal and state funding dwindle, mental health boards are being required to do more, she said. By September 2016 Ohio mental health boards will be required to provide a “continuum of care” for opiate-addicted clients, which may range from an increase in medication-assisted treatment to additional residential treatment to 12-step programs.
In 2014, the MHRB served, through its contracted vendors, 1,000 adults with mental health issues; 1,350 adolescents and adults with alcohol and drug issues; 625 children; 5,000 in prevention services; and 3,500 in community education and advocacy. In 2014, funds from the mental health levy provided about a third of MHRB’s $6.5 million budget. MHRB has been dipping into its reserves to make up for declining revenue from state and federal sources, Scherra noted.
“The Board has been dealing with decreased state funding but increased needs for both mental health and addiction services, especially for those individuals in the county using heroin,” said Scherra. “So it is absolutely necessary to try for additional local resources through our levy, in order to address these needs and help people recover from these illnesses.”
(Photo: Staffers from CPS at the annual Joy of Adoption ceremony in 2014.)