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Health and Medicine


Ohio directs $5 million to help families dealing with severe mental illness
Collaborative effort directs nearly $500,000 to Stark, Portage, Wayne, Holmes and Columbiana; still, director says, expanding Medicaid is key
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


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M.L. Schultze
 
Tracy Plouck directs the newly merged Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Courtesy of ERIC WANDERSLEBEN
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In The Region:

Five northeast Ohio counties -- including Stark, Portage and Wayne – are getting a half million dollars to help children and young adults with serious and sometimes violent mental health problems. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on what the state’s doing to boost local efforts and why.

LISTEN: Ohio funds special efforts for mental health intervention

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LISTEN: Abbreviated version

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In all, the state is funding seven special grants. All share a commitment to kids – ages 8-24 --  with serious mental health problems. And all are collaborations of agencies and counties.

After that, no two projects are alike because each was developed at the local level. Tracy Plouck is director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and says it is important that local communities develop with their own focus.

She says the project for Stark, Wayne, Portage, Holmes and Columbiana counties is focused largely on family support.

“Often times families who have a young person, where it’s very challenging situation, it’s very tense for the family, they might need a period of respite where the family can just take a weekend off. And the young person can go and stay somewhere else and focus on their independence, maybe have sort of a reframing opportunity and the family can get some rest and that can help keep a family together.”

Plouck says the Northeast Ohio effort also will focus on crisis teams available to families 24-hours a day.

Total state funding for the grants is $5 million. Another nearly $3 million for mental health care is coming from administrative costs the state saved when it merged separate departments of mental health and addiction services.

But Plouck says the expansion of Medicaid is what would really provide a needed pool of money for mental health services for young adults.

“We think that the most important step Ohio can take in terms of supporting mental health and addiction services is really an investment in Medicaid expansion for Ohio. The governor has a proposal that would extend Medicaid benefits to childless adults up just under $16,000 a year in income. There are a lot of transition-age youth in that category who are uninsured, may be struggling with addition or mental illness. Once they’re emancipated and are adults, they do not have access to services unless they’re provided for free in a local safety net.”

While her boss, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has been pushing the expansion, he’s been so far been unable to win over fellow Republicans in the Statehouse.

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