MHRB to go on ballot in May

By Kelsey Kimbler -

EATON — Preble County Mental Health and Recovery Board will be going to voters on the May ballot, seeking a .65-mill renewal levy.

The levy was originally passed and valued in 1984. According to MHRB Executive Director Amy Raynes, the levy pulls in .26 mill for residential and agriculture and .46 mill for commercial, due to reduction factors.

Raynes presented the proposed renewal to the Preble County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday, Jan. 16.

“We are at the end of our levy period and thought we would need to go on in May. That will give us another ballot option if needed. The board decided not to ask for more money, even though to do that we’re going to have to cut programs. We just feel like a renewal will be the best thing for us and it is better to hold on to what we have, then to take a risk asking for more from the tax payers who already pay for a lot from our county,” Raynes said.

“I brought some information about our fiscal year budget,” she continued. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve nearly doubled that amount of money through grants specific for programming. Those grants will also go away eventually — we don’t have a sustainability plan, but I feel like, when that time comes, then we can talk about what we want to do.

“It is not necessarily wise to cut programming when we are in quite a few crisis, obviously we have the crisis with our addiction issue, but we are also having a suicide crisis in the State of Ohio. The school superintendents and I feel part of the answer is get more mental health services into the schools.”

According to Raynes, the MHRB’s FY19 budget is $2,308,332 compared to FY18 $1,925,885. Deficit budgeting for FY19 is $187,698 compared to FY18 $147,129. The board has a current reserve of six months.

She added, Preble County was ninth in the state per capita for overdose deaths in calendar year 2017. Preble County had 28 overdose deaths in 2017 and approximately nine deaths (final numbers will be available in March) in 2018.

MHRB is offering the following new programs and services: peer support (state mandated), recovery housing (state mandated), prison reentry (state grant), housing case management (grant requirement), mobile response and stabilization services (federal grant), a full-time crisis worker, residential treatment (Sojourner), mental health jail treatment (state mandated), the Success Program (state grant), suicide prevention (state grant), and Parent Project/Why Try (state grant).

Program expansions include: school based services in two schools, SAFE, and adding two housing units.

“We’re just trying to do the best we can to stretch those dollars as much as we can,” Raynes said. “We really have to keep on programming sources to try and keep our continuing care for Preble County. It is really sad when I go to other counties and listen to their programming and Preble can’t have those programs, because we don’t get the funding those bigger counties do.

“For me, it is a lot of advocacy on all of our parts in Preble to say, we need to have the same opportunities these larger counties have. They have larger levies than we do, but at the same time, we are still all tax paying citizens. We deserve to have that going for us.”

She recently joined a collaboration between several local counties entitled Regional Affiliate Alcohol, Drug, Mental Heath & Recovery Boards. These counties joined together to strengthen their ability to expand service access, create options for local citizen, and raise up the local voice in a regional behavioral healthcare system, while observing statutory responsibilities.

“Overall, our board is looking for a renewal. We want to make sure we continue with the services that we’ve had. We have to cut some, because we have been deficit budgeting in order to buy some properties to get some programming which was mandated. Also, to start some new programs that we hadn’t had the opportunity in the past to have, for a lesser cost than if we would have waited,” Raynes said.

“We’ll have to make some hard decisions in the spring, but we felt like right now that was the best thing for Preble County and the Preble County Mental Health and Recovery Board.”

By Kelsey Kimbler

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH