BY STEVE KEMME
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HAMILTON -- Butler County voters will face a 1.5-mill levy in November for two agencies that want to expand mental health services and drug and alcohol addiction services.
The county commissioners approved Thursday the five-year levy's appearance on the ballot, saying the county badly needs the services the levy would fund.
The $7.6 million per year that the levy would generate would be divided equally between the Butler County Mental Health Board and the Alcohol & Drug Addiction Services Board of Butler County (ADAS).
The agencies plan to use the money primarily for more education, prevention and treatment services to adolescents, children and their families.
"I think you're right on target in what you're trying to do," Commissioner Courtney Combs told John Staup, mental health board executive director, and David Royer, executive director of the ADAS Board. "The critical need is for our youth. If we can turn our youth around, we're all going to win."
The levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $52.50 per year in property taxes.
This is the first time two Butler County agencies have jointly proposed a levy.
Many children and teen-agers don't receive the mental health care and the drug and alcohol services they need because they aren't covered by health insurance.
"There are a lot of working poor people who may not have health insurance that extends to their family members," Mr. Staup said.
Nationally, one out of five youths under 18 needs behavioral health services. But Butler County is able to serve only one of five who need it, Mr. Staup said.
The expanded services financed by the levy would focus especially on students in pre-school through junior high, he said.
"If you can have enough primary prevention early, you can make a difference," Mr. Staup said.
The ADAS Board has never been supported by a local levy and is the only such board in Ohio without a source of local funding, county officials said.
For residential care for Butler County adolescents with substance abuse problems, the ADAS Board contracts with the Talbert House in Cincinnati.
"We have limited funds for adolescent residential services," Mr. Royer said.
If the levy is approved, the ADAS Board will either build a 30-bed facility or use an existing health-care facility to provide this need.
"We hope that by providing youths with drug and alcohol treatment early, it will prevent them from being in our correctional facility later on," he said.