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COLUMBUS, OH: Gov. Mike DeWine outlined broad improvements to the mental health system in his State of the State speech, vowing to bring Ohioans with mental illness out of the shadows. “NAMI Ohio will be working with Governor DeWine and the General Assembly to develop a support system that gives hope to those with mental illness and their families.” NAMI Ohio Executive Director Luke Russell shared while leaving the Statehouse.

“We must face the fact that no Ohioan will ever fully live up to their potential or be able to lead purposeful and meaningful lives if their mental illness remains in the shadows and untreated,” Gov. DeWine said in his annual priorities address at the Statehouse. It was the first of his second term as governor.

As he first noted late last year, Gov. DeWine said the nation and Ohio, “despite the good intentions of the past,” have not fulfilled promises first made in the 1960’s to develop a community-based mental health system after the downsizing of psychiatric hospitals led to the release of thousands of patients into the community.

Gov. DeWine quoted former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu who said, “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

“To make meaningful change, we must figure out why so many of our fellow Ohioans keep falling into that proverbial river and finally get to the root causes of mental illness and addiction,” the governor said. “NAMI Ohio appreciates the Governor recognizing our river is reoccurring inpatient hospital stays, prisons and jails, homeless shelters and the shadows of the streets across Ohio,” said Russell.

NAMI Ohio Executive Director Luke Russell responded enthusiastically to the governor’s mental health initiative.

“Gov. DeWine has continued to prioritize mental health, and NAMI Ohio asks the General Assembly to join this effort,” Russell said. “Every family is impacted since one out of five Ohioans has a serious mental illness.”

“The governor spoke about breaking the stigma of mental health. That time is Now! NAMI Ohio joins the governor in initiating the change needed,” Russell said.

Russell underlined Gov. DeWine’s commitment that boosting Ohioans with mental illness is “simply the right thing to do. NAMI Ohio agrees and wants to ensure the 500,000 people that get treatment can find the supports to reduce the revolving door of those moving in and out of emergency room, inpatient hospitals, jails, prisons and homeless shelters.”

The governor’s plan also includes creation of the State of Ohio Action for Resiliency (SOAR) Network to involve doctors, mental health counselors and others to support and how to improve services.

Gov. DeWine’s 55-minute speech to a joint session of the Ohio General Assembly outlined his priorities in mental health, education, housing, public safety, water quality and other areas. He discussed aspects of his proposed state biennial budget which was submitted Tuesday and must be approved by the legislature by June 30.

A major part of his speech focused on improvements in mental health treatment and research.

    • Building a community care system that increases prevention efforts
    • Offering better crisis response services and treatment options
    • Growing our behavioral health workforce
    • Focusing on much-needed research and innovation
    • Delivering treatment and counseling services either in person or through telehealth visits to people in their homes and workplaces
    • Boosting suicide prevention to end the needless loss of our brothers and sisters.
    • Supporting the youngest Ohioans at the earliest sign of a behavioral health need
    • Expanding crisis care and the new 9-8-8 hotline so fewer Ohioans land in the emergency room
    • Increasing access to state hospitals and private psychiatric hospitals to ease stress on families, emergency departments, courts, and jails
    • Making a one-time investment to expand the pediatric behavioral health care system to address the shortage of behavioral health professionals serving children

“Ohioans don’t wait for others to solve our problems. It’s not who we are; it’s not in our DNA. Our history is when we have a problem, we figure out solutions. Then the rest of the world follows Ohio.”

“Each of us knows someone who is struggling,” the governor continued. “Maybe you have a friend who is depressed or anxious about the future. Maybe your brother or sister has schizophrenia, but you’ve never told your friends because you’re too embarrassed.” NAMI Ohio shared 1 in 5 Ohioans have a serious mental illness; each and every family is impacted.