Washington County voters overwhelmingly supported a senior services levy on Tuesday, but turned down a proposed mental health levy, leaving the county board to consider if they should go to voters again next year.
With less state money to spend on local services, officials with the Washington County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Board said they may be forced to try again to get support on a future ballot.
"I don't see how we can afford to not try again but I'll have to talk it over with the rest of the board," said David White, board president. "I'm really disappointed. I really feel for all the people who call us asking for help and having to tell so many of them we can't help."
The proposed 1-mill mental health levy was defeated Tuesday with nearly 60 percent of votes against it. The final, unofficial count was 12,156 votes against the measure and 6,942 for the levy. It is the fourth time the board has attempted to pass a levy since 1998. None of the previous efforts passed, or was closer than having 42 percent of the vote in favor.
Washington County is one of only 14 counties in the state without a levy to support mental health and addiction services.
Marietta residents Mike and Jean Knapke said they supported the levy this time around.
Mental health: 8,425 (40.94 percent) for; 12,156 (59.06 percent) against.
Senior services: 13,738 (66.43 percent) for; 6,942 (33.57 percent) against.
"I had always voted against the mental health levy but this time I was for it," said Jean Knapke, 64. "I feel that we've lost a lot of services, facilities have been closed and there are a lot of people out there who genuinely need that kind of help."
Mike Knapke, 60, said the issue was highlighted for him recently when an individual he knows began seeking treatment for alcoholism and found there was nothing locally for detox services.
One example of the loss of services in the area was the 2009 closure of the chemical dependency unit at Marietta Memorial Hospital.
"We need a place for people to turn," Mike Knapke said.
White said the levy would have generated approximately $1 million in each of the next five years to provide counseling, case management services, psychiatric care and addiction treatment for uninsured county residents.
The levy would have cost approximately $30 annually for an individual with a home valued at $100,000.
Senior services levy:
The continuation of senior services like home delivered meals and adult day care was ensured Tuesday when 66 percent of voters supported a renewal levy.
The levy is expected to raise approximately $1 million a year and will cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $26.03 annually.
Missi Scott, 40, of Marietta, said the levy is important at any cost. She said her grandmother lives in the county and depends on some of the services provided through the levy.
"It isn't just about her," Scott said. "This levy helps a lot of people."
The final, unofficial count on the levy was 13,738 for the levy and 6,942 against.
The majority of the levy funds, about 58 percent, go to the O'Neill Center, which is located in Marietta but provides services to senior citizens around the county.
"We're very grateful because this means services will continue for many seniors who depend on them," said Terry Zdrale, executive director of the O'Neill Center. "We're going to do our best to deliver as many services as possible."
The levy will support senior feeding programs, provide help in paying for medication, ensure senior day care settings and provide funding to senior centers across the county.
"They're all important programs," Zdrale said. "People depend on food, so meals on wheels is important. The prescription program helps get people the drugs they need and the adult day care helps keep people from going to nursing homes."
About 32 percent is allocated to Washington-Morgan Community Action, which uses the money for senior nutrition and assistance programs.
Scott said her grandmother utilizes some of the nutrition programs.
Another 7.1 percent funds the O'Neill's prescription drug assistance program, while 2.8 percent goes to the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.
The levy funds account for about 62 percent of the O'Neill Center's nearly $1 million annual budget.
Zdrale said the levy typically supports about 2,500 Washington County residents each year.
From 2006 to 2010, the levy funds provided 65,703 meals at the senior nutrition sites and 69,498 home-delivered meals, according to the Washington County Senior Services Levy Committee.