A Great Day for Those We Represent
Last night the Conference Committee voted to present the 2020/2021 state budget today to the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House was to vote today at 1:00 PM and the Senate at 3:00 PM to ratify this budget. We were just told that the House and the Senate approved the Conference Committee’s recommendations.
As you are all aware, I am never speechless but the approved state budget certainly reflected NAMI Ohio’s advocacy work over the past number of years. Our members, affiliates, friends, the Board of Directors, and me and my staff may have accomplished more than we could have ever dreamed.
As you remember over 3 years ago, NAMI Ohio began to discuss crisis services which led us to the development of the Adam-Amanda Mental Health Rehabilitation Center. This year, we advocated for new crisis funding to do everything we could to eliminate the use of emergency rooms, homeless shelters, and the criminal justice system as the first entry into the mental health system. The approved state budget added $37 million in crisis and $36 million for prevention.
The Governor recommended $36 million for prevention. He also recommended $550 million for the Student Wellness and Success funding which includes a significant focus on children’s mental health. The House of Representatives approved the Governor’s recommendations and added $125 million for a total of $675 million for this purpose. In May, the Senate removed the $36 million for prevention activities as well as the House of Representative’s increase of $125 million for the Student Wellness and Success funding. Because of our advocacy with the 6 members of the Conference Committee including the Governor, Speaker Householder and Senator Burke, both of those items removed by the Senate were re-instated in the final budget.
More specifically in each of these areas, in the area of Prevention the General Assembly approved $18M in FY 2020 to support K-12 prevention education initiatives, and to purchase prevention curricula and provide quality prevention services; and another $13M in FY 2020 and up to $5M in FY 2021 to support and expand statewide multi-media prevention, treatment, and stigma reduction campaigns. In the area of Crisis Continuum of Care the General Assembly approved $37M total over the biennium to expand Crisis Response and downstream stabilization services for mental illness. This $37 million includes $15M over biennium ($7.5M/year) continued from last biennium for SUD Withdraw Management Centers and Collaborative (SUD/MH) Crisis Centers; also $10 M over biennium ($6M/year) for Infrastructure of Crisis Services, and another $12 M over the biennium for Crisis Stabilization and Prevention.
The Student Wellness and Success Funds for children’s mental health ($675 million) will be used for mental health counseling, wraparound supports, mentoring, after school programs, and more.
Tomorrow, I will be sending a letter concerning how this budget impacts the Medicaid Re-design and how we have hope that these changes will eliminate much of the chaos that has occurred during this implementation.
There are also other items in the state budget – one sponsored by Gail Channing-Tenenbaum, the foremost children’s advocate in the state, that increases funding by $18 million of flexible dollars in the Medicaid portion of the state budget to end custody relinquishment for multi-system youth. The budget also added $5 million to create at least 30 more Specialized Courts (including mental health courts) during the biennium. There is also another $5 million to expand the number of individuals trained in mental health first aid and CIT.
Congratulations! All of your advocacy during the budget was incredibly successful. For those baseball fans out there, we literally batted 1000! The bottom line is, every single one of NAMI Ohio’s budget priorities, including maintaining the psychiatric physician and advance practice nursing exemption from prior authorizations for psychiatric medications as well as the funding priorities, were included in the final state budget bill.
All of us know the meanness of mental illness. We know from our lived experiences that there is no magic wand to take the pain away. But today everyone involved with NAMI Ohio can step back and pray that we are moving toward the day where our loved ones will be able to get the services needed to recover. We are a long way away from having a system that meets our needs. Our challenge now is to address issues such as housing, more mental health rehabilitation centers, expansion of Clubhouses, employment and make sure that the money that has just been budgeted is expended appropriately.
There are many days when all of us question if what we are doing makes a difference. Today is not one of those days. Today is a day of celebration. I ask each of you to recognize that the comment, “You’ll never walk alone” will be true if NAMI’s voice is heard.
National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio
1225 Dublin Road, Suite 125
Columbus, Ohio 43215