Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Mental health plan tied to levy

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - A comprehensive plan for meeting the mental health needs of Butler County's growing population - especially school-age youths - will be completed by December.

But without additional revenue, the plan will wind up on the shelf, Butler officials said Monday.

The plan won't be implemented without the passage of a mental health levy in the March 2 primary election, said John Staup, executive director of the Butler County Mental Health Board.

As evidence of the unmet mental health needs in Butler County, Staup and Barbara Perez, school support services coordinator with the Butler County Educational Service Center, cited the results of a student mental health survey conducted in Butler, Warren, Clermont counties this past year.

The survey, sponsored by the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati and county mental health agencies, showed that more students struggle with severe mental and emotional problems than experts anticipated.

Of the 21,915 students questioned, 6 percent reported suffering severe emotional and behavioral problems.

Butler County is developing its plan partly in response to the student mental health survey, whose results were released in August.

Because of reduced state and federal funding and expired grants, the Butler County Mental Health Board has slashed $2.5 million in the past two years. Some of the discontinued services included in-school psychologists.

The passage of a Butler County mental health levy will be key to implementing this plan. Because of state and federal funding cutbacks, the Butler County Mental Health Board has cut $2.5 million from its budget in the past two years.


E-mail skemme@enquirer.com

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