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Written by: Alan Johnson

The National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio supports the proposed state budget, House Bill 110, because it offers an enhanced focus on adults with serious mental illness and begins to address what is missing in Ohio’s mental health system – personalized care, support, and/or treatment.

However, NAMI Ohio does have concerns about provisions altering the makeup of county mental health boards and a shift altering Gov. Mike DeWine’s original Student Wellness and Success Funds.

In written testimony submitted to the Ohio Senate Health Committee, NAMI Ohio Executive Director Terry Russell called House Bill 110 “the right direction for Ohio. The governor and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services approach to a multi-system adult service system is in the right direction

Russell continued, “Over 50,000 Ohioans with disabling mental illness end up in homeless shelters, jails, prisons, and in and out of psychiatric hospitals – UNLIKE other disabled populations such as individuals with Developmental Disabilities or aging. NAMI Ohio believes HB 110 begins to recognize that serious and persistent mental illness is often times disabling, and we need to address the quality of life for these individuals currently in the system.”

Since 1988, when the state passed the historic Mental Health Act, six state psychiatric hospitals were closed. But in the intervening 32 years, the promised community support system for those with serious and persistent mental illness find themselves in prisons, jails, homeless, and in sub-standard housing.

Russell praised several specific components of the budget bill, including:

  • A new focus on collaborative, multi-system services for those with serious and persistent mental illness beyond the typical community mental health treatment model will save lives by increasing access to care.
  • Improved quality of life for those living in residential group homes by giving residential operators a financial incentive.
  • Increased funding for Crisis Stabilization Centers and regional State Psychiatric Hospitals to provide “a critical part of the crisis continuum of care and act as a safety net for those needing longer lengths of inpatient care.”
  • Greater focus on intervention for those with mental illness living in jails and state correctional facilities.

Russell testified that NAMI Ohio opposes changes in the budget that would remove the requirement for individuals with lived experience, family members, and professionals to serve on local Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Boards. He said the changes are “wrong and play into the stigma toward those with mental illness and substance use disorders. We believe this is a disservice to the individuals with mental illness and their families by eliminating their voice on local County ADAMH Boards.”

Russell further said NAMI Ohio would like to see Gov. DeWine’s original Student Wellness and Success Funds restored as part of an updated school funding formula. As amended, the budget would combine Student Wellness and Success Funds with the Economically Disadvantage funds into the Disadvantaged Pupil Impact Aid (DPIA) fund.

He said the combination would reduce overall funding and overlay a distribution plan based solely on the number of low-income students identified in each school and the number of students receiving free and reduced lunch. Russell said while unintended this approach “stigmatizes social-emotional development, mental health, and prevention as limited to low-income students and families.”

In conclusion, Russell said NAMI Ohio believes the budget will improve services to individuals with severe and persistent mental illness, allow the state to focus on the most vulnerable population, prioritize a “Person-Centered Care Model,” boost support for housing, food, and shelter, and allow the development of rehabilitation centers, group homes, day services, clubhouses, and peer recovery centers.