A generation ago, Ohio shuttered most of its mental hospitals. Now, House Speaker Larry Householder and his fellow Republican lawmakers are talking about re-opening them.
Householder acknowledges that the facilities were closed in part because of horror stories about how residents were treated. But he said Ohio officials never followed through with the community care resources needed after the institutions were shuttered, which has resulted in a large homeless population, crime and rampant substance abuse.
Sign up for our politics newsletter Besides, times have changed and we know a lot more about proper mental health treatment these days, he said last week.
“We have thousands of these people,” he said. “Tonight, when you’re driving home, you’ll see them sleeping on the curb.”
Householder said a mental institution could give them the help they need. The topic came up, he said, as GOP lawmakers were discussing what to do in response to the mass shooting in Dayton three months ago.
While mental health professionals decry the stigma of violence sometimes attached to mentally ill people, Householder said, some “are a threat to themselves and a threat to society.”
If they were institutionalized, he said, “I think our society would be safer than it is now.”
School funding fun
For more than a year now, the school-funding proposal developed by Democratic Rep. John Patterson and Republican Rep. Bob Cupp has been touted as the unicorn that would finally satisfy the Ohio Constitution’s requirement for the state to provide a “thorough and efficient” education to its children.
But the issue has turned out to be even more complicated than the experts thought. The original hope of rolling out the plan early this year so it could be included in the current state budget that took effect in July were thwarted.
“I’d say we’re probably at 80% now of where I think we need to be,” Householder said.
He said funding equity and paying for transportation are the remaining major hurdles. Oh, and how to pay for the estimated $1.5 billion cost.
He said that price tag might be somewhat smaller when new wraparound services approved in the current two-year state budget are taken into account. And he still says caps are needed on funding for fast-growing affluent districts to keep the overall cost down.
But Householder downplayed the goal of Cupp and Patterson to implement the new setup by the middle of next year.
“I would be happy if we were able to come up with a good, solid funding plan in time for the next biennium,” which starts in July 2021.
One question apiece …
Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Rob Portman, a Republican, have regular calls from Washington in which they update reporters on the issues coming across their desks. Like most news conferences, reporters get to ask questions at the end.
Lately, though, Portman’s calls have been heavy on monologues from the senator and short on questions, reporter Rick Rouan notes.
During calls last month, Portman’s staff cut off reporters after about three questions as they sought to get Portman’s take on issues swirling around President Donald Trump’s administration, including the impeachment inquiry and the ongoing saga in Syria.
Portman is a Trump supporter. He has endorsed the president, and in his most recent call last week he said that he still opposed the impeachment inquiry even though he has said it was wrong for Trump to ask a foreign government to investigate a political rival.
But an aide ended the call before Rouan and other reporters could ask Portman for elaboration.
Biden’s sweet tooth
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s stop in Ohio for a fundraiser Thursday was so quick that he didn’t have time to make his usual visit to one of Columbus’ many ice cream shops.
Never fear. Hosts Rocky and Susie Saxbe made sure that Biden had a “to go” container of Salty Caramel from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream for his trip back to the campaign trail in Iowa.
Reach Darrel Rowland at firstname.lastname@example.org or @darreldrowland