Why we must fund mental health services

This week, Hamilton County commissioners are expected to vote to determine if three tax levy renewals will appear on the November ballot.

One of those levies, a measure to fund mental health services, includes an increase – potentially generating almost $45 million annually, compared with $36.5 million at the current millage rate.

We encourage the three-person commission – Denise Driehaus, Stephanie Summerow Dumas and Alicia Reece – to greenlight the levy so it goes before the voters.

Here’s why:

The need for mental health services is great

To put it bluntly, we are facing a mental health crisis, one that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As reported by The Enquirer’s Terry DeMio, a survey at the end of 2021 of 26,260 seventh- through 12th-grade students in Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont counties showed that more than half (53.3%) reported high levels of stress. One in 10 said they have suicidal thoughts. And 60% struggle to pull themselves out of a bad mood.

Overdose deaths among teens and young adults escalated in 2020 and 2021. Southwest Ohio saw a 37% rise from 2019 to 2020 in the deaths of those 15 to 24 years old, Ohio Department of Health records show.

Hamilton County’s Mental Health and Recovery Services Board does not provide direct care; rather, it provides funding and coordinates services from partnering mental health providers for adults and children who are mentally disabled and/or addicted to alcohol and drugs.

An independent analysis of the agency determined the number of residents in need of mental health care will continue to rise, while the number of caregivers is expected to drop due to low compensation and burnout.

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