LIMA — The five-year levy funding mental health programs throughout Allen, Auglaize and Hardin Counties is up for renewal this November, and mental health professionals visited the Allen County commissioners Thursday afternoon to highlight some of their successes.
Mental Health & Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize and Hardin Counties Executive Director Michael Schoenhofer said the board saw roughly 6,000 individuals in 2017 seeking services from the organization, a number up from 2016’s 5,500 individuals.
“One of the challenges we’re facing in the treatment world is that demand is increasing,” Schoenhofer said.
Of the 6,000, roughly 2,700 individuals will follow up with the board for some form of assessment to understand what kind of program they may need. The remainder may find a support group or some other form of treatment that doesn’t require an assessment.
Schoenhofer said the increase is mostly due to rising awareness of mental health issues. In the past, seeking mental health treatment has been stigmatizing for individuals despite, in many cases, mental health problems often being easily treatable with the right medicines.
“One of the biggest changes we’ve been able to do is increase our outreach,” Schoenhofer said. “The idea is not everyone can find their way here.”
For example, the board sends out mental health professionals to schools and hospitals to identify individuals who may need some form of mental health treatment.
In schools, professionals may hold suicide prevention programs and teach educators how to better identify mental health problems affecting their students. Suicide is currently the second-leading cause of death for those between 10- and 34-year-olds.
The mental health industry in the area represents roughly 300 employees. The five-year levy, which raises $3.2 million annually, covers roughly half of the mental health board’s activities.
The average property owner currently pays $30 each year to the mental health board through the property tax levy. The renewal would keep that number at the same rate.
While the mental health board does work with a wide range of individuals, Schoenhofer estimated two-thirds of individuals seeking help are employed. For those without a steady paycheck, the mental health board works with Ohio Means Jobs to help them become more secure.
“This levy raises half of the money we use to provide services. Without that, we would be in bad shape,” Schoenhofer said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.