Mental health levy funds begin to be used in community

As providers in medical, behavioral health and the courts rally behind the call to fight the opioid epidemic in the Mid-Ohio Valley, funding sources have begun putting money to requested programming.

The Washington County Behavioral Health Board provided The Marietta Times with a list of authorizations it has made since the first Mental Health Levy funds were received on March 29.

“We were notified in April that funds were in our account, and immediately began pursuing the programs to fund and fight this from multiple angles,” said Brent Phipps, deputy director.

But the mental health levy, passed last fall, is not the only funding source to roll out support for treatment, intervention programs and court resources.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, announced this month that Washington County would receive $95,516 in federal funding to combat the epidemic while Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, looked to the country’s borders to stop the fatal opioid fentanyl from crossing the border with funding of detection devices.

Portman’s press secretary, Emmalee Kalmbach, explained that the county’s allotment was part of the funding allowed by the 21st Century CURES legislation passed in December 2016.

“The funding was secured on the federal level and what the state developed was the tier system for how they dispersed funds,” Kalmbach explained.

For two years Ohio’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction received funding through the CURES law. This year the allotment was $26 million of the $1 billion pledged by Congress over two years to fight the heroin and prescription drug epidemic.

“But we did not meet the qualifications in the first round of funding,” explained Phipps. “My understanding is we were too low of a tier because we didn’t have enough overdoses.”

But documented deaths via overdose, while not as high as hyper-urban areas of the state, aren’t the full picture of the epidemic’s impact on the area.

“So I talked with Sen. Portman’s office and explained how in our county, where there aren’t as many infrastructure systems and buildings in place already it’s hard to come up with funds that don’t have strings attached,” said Phipps.

He said getting the $95,516 will stretch levy funds further as the federal dollars pick up the tab for a $50,000 commitment to contract with Hopewell Health Centers to provide medication-assisted treatment for opioid users. Medication-assistance comes in the forms of lower-dosage opioids administered in a clinic to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal; others can act as a neural blockers rendering opioids ineffective. Hopewell also provides with the treatment therapy and case management services.

“The remaining funds will go to subacute detox, paying for indigent bed days and buying residential bed days in Perry Behavioral Health’s center in New Lexington and Women’s Rural Recovery in Athens,” he added.

Phipps also explained where other funds from the mental health levy have been pledged, including paying for trauma training for area school districts.

He noted that Hopewell Health Centers is also heading up both the chemical dependency program in the Washington County Jail through levy funding, and Hopewell is also contracted to work with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office as part of an upcoming rapid response team to pursue individuals at-risk of overdose and who have overdosed to be connected with services and treatment options.

“That’s encouraging,” said Kristen McCloud, executive director of the Pathways of Central Ohio. The state-certified center not only answers 211 calls and texts for Washington County but also answers calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

“In Licking and Knox counties we have opiate response teams so that when someone overdoses they’re then asked if someone can come to see them and talk with them about treatment options,” McCloud said. “It’s had a good impact up here.”

Pathways of Central Ohio also serves Muskingum, Perry and Morgan counties.

McCloud said one resource those in Washington County don’t seem to know they has access to is the text version.

“If you text your zip code within Washington County to 898211 then you’ll be connected with our staff that way,” she mentioned. “We did this because we were concerned that someone with limited phone minutes could lose that time while waiting on hold.”

McCloud said the call center always has two certified staff members on shift at all times to answer the hotlines and provide resources, including those for parents and families of addicts looking for aid.

Specifically for addiction services and help, that texting number, 898211, can also direct an individual to opioid addiction-specific services by texting the word “opioid.”

She said the bulk of calls asking for aid come from Washington County after 4 p.m. and encouraged both service providers and those looking for additional resources to also visit navigateresources.net/chic and enter a Washington County zip code for listings of local services based on need.

“And if you’re a service provider that’s an easy way to check and make sure our information on you is accurate, update it or request to be listed,” McCloud explained.

What’s been funded or pledged:

• Contracting with Life and Purpose Services for trauma training in all six school districts: $126, 280.

• Grant to the Suicide Awareness Alliance and local outreach to suicide survivors projects in Washington County: $5,000.

• Grant to EVE, Inc. to ensure continued operation of the EVE safe exchange visitation center which has seen an increase in use due to increased drug use in our county: $10,000.

• Grant to Washington County Health Department for behavior training initiative in county schools called PAX: $35,000 ($400 per teacher).

• Funding the 211 Information and referral line for another calendar year: $3,000.

• Contracting with Hopewell Health Centers to provide family systems therapy, covering issues related to communication, structure and roles. This does not require an identified client or diagnosis: $50,000.

• Contracting with Hopewell Health Centers to provide Medication Assisted Treatment for opioid users which consists of medication to reduce craving, therapy and case management services: $50,000.

• Grant to Washington County Children Services to help with placing children affected by opioid use in the homes of relatives in the area so that they do not have to go into foster care or be placed outside Washington county: $20,000.

• Extending the sliding fee scale (client fees at agencies are based on income and family size) to Rigel and Hopewell Health Centers which along with Life and Purpose means no client will be denied service due to inability to pay. Life and Purpose and Hopewell Health also offers mental health services covered under the sliding fee scale: $310,000.

• Funding the House of Hope center on County House Lane for an additional year. This is a supportive center for daytime activities for those with chronic mental illness that has proven to reduce rehospitalization: $65,000.

•Pledge with Common Pleas Court to help re-establish a Drug Court. Projected expense from the board for start up is $100,000 with additional $50,000 the following year then should be self-sufficient from grants after initial startup. J

• Convened an Opioid Hub meeting for community leaders and agencies to find ways to collaborate regarding addiction issues: No cost other than staff time.

• Launched County Jail Chemical Dependency Program provided by Hopewell and Life and Purpose in the jail. Both agencies will determine Medicaid eligibility and refer inmates to appropriate support and treatment services after their release: $40,400.

• Organizing a Rapid Response Team to assist those who may have overdosed or are in frequent contact with law enforcement to get into treatment. The three-person team led by a sheriff’s deputy and a Hopewell counselor will do outreach to those known people who may benefit from treatment. The team will also meet with those people who may be on a medical floor at Marietta Memorial Hospital before discharge: $30,000.

• Funding day treatment for children who need increased supervision and behavior and psychiatric interventions.

– Hopewell will provide a child and adolescent day treatment program in Barlow open to all six school districts in Washington County and with a Board-Certified Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist on staff: $30,000.

• Identifying and training peer specialists to help with mentoring those wanting to get into treatment or in early stages of recovery of either substance abuse or mental illness.

– Training to be held in October and people being identified now to take the pre-requisite 16-hour online training.

– Training to be provided by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

• Funding county-wide training Oct. 11 for staff regarding motivational interviewing to assist counselors in working with resistant clients: $3,000.

• Funding subacute detox, medically monitored through the Perry Behavioral Health Center in New Lexington for indigent and buy residential bed days at the Women’s Rural Recovery center in Athens: $45,516.

Source: Washington County Behavioral Health Board.