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COLUMBUS, OH: Vowing to remedy “unfinished business” from decades ago when thousands of people were released from psychiatric hospitals without adequate treatment, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced a plan to greatly expand community services for those with mental illness.

Gov. DeWine said “tragically” neither the state of Ohio nor other agencies across the nation followed up with the necessary treatment for those who exited hospitals beginning during the administration of President John F. Kennedy. That failure resulted in large numbers of people struggling with untreated mental illness often ending up homeless, filling hospital emergency rooms, or being incarcerated.

The governor’s plan, which will be presented to state lawmakers next year in his budget, will include a “behavioral-health research hub,” an in-depth study of the causes of mental health and addiction issues, and expansion of community services. Cost figures for the proposal were not released.

NAMI Ohio Executive Director Luke Russell said NAMI Ohio, the state’s largest grassroots organization advocating for the mentally ill, their families and caregivers, enthusiastically supports Gov. DeWine’s proposal and applauds his “willingness to be a champion so individuals and families have hope that they will have to no longer live in the shadows.”

“NAMI Ohio stands ready and willing to work with the Governor and State Legislature to prioritize a person-centered approach to mental health treatment that has not been part of the current treatment model,” Russell continued. NAMI Ohio wants to ensure support services such as Housing, Day Services and Client Navigation become a reality for individuals with serious mental illness and their families.

“Every family, workplace and community is impacted by mental illness and the time to challenge the status quo is here,” Russell said. “We appreciate Gov. DeWine’s focus to address a system that was never built when as a nation we decided to close the large psychiatric Institutions. Individuals not only needed the community treatment services, but also support services that give a quality and dignity of life all people deserve.”

The governor outlined his proposal this week at summit sponsored by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. “We must – we must – change this. We must now make behavioral health visible, accessible, and effective in all communities in Ohio,” he said.

Gov. DeWine also renewed his plan to spend $85 million in COVID19 aid from the federal government to help boost employment for mental health workers and internships.