LIMA — Voters in Allen, Auglaize and Hardin counties will have an opportunity on Election Day to renew a Mental Health and Recovery Services levy that for the past five years has taken the lead in helping victims of the opioid crisis in the area.
The cost would be $30 per year on a $100,000 home, and the levy would raise $3.2 million dollars per year to provide a host of services. It represents 53 percent of the agency’s budget. A complete listing of all services can be found at https://www.wecarepeople.org/levy-renewal.
Mental Health and Recovery Services Executive Director Michael Schoenhofer said that since the first levy was approved, the agency has put into place both preventative and treatment programs to fight substance abuse.
Schoenhofer said the biggest innovation funded by the levy is an Opiate Quick Response Program that has teams who will respond within 60 minutes to an overdose report from any of the five local emergency rooms.
“Our people come to the ER to encourage the patient to enter into a recovery program at either St. Rita’s or their Crisis Center.” He said that he feels they have made real progress. “We have a 75 percent success rate among the those who came in for treatment.” Other figures also tell the agency it is making an impact.
“So far, in 2018, we have had only one fatal overdose in Allen county and none in either Auglaize or Hardin.” he said. “In 2017, there were 39 overdose deaths in Allen County, six deaths in Auglaize County and nine in Hardin County.
“As much as we focus our efforts on treatment, we are also putting a big effort into prevention with the goal of helping this generation of young people avoid the pitfalls of addiction and mental illness by putting into place early-intervention programs,” he added.
The agency supports 19 Gatekeeper student groups in the local high schools.
“Gatekeepers is a high school program that engages young people in promoting mental wellness and open communication,” he said. “They learn how to engage a friend in trouble and get them to an adult.”
He said there are two other prevention and awareness programs the agency provides.
One is Mental Health First Aid, an eight-hour course that teaches anyone the signs that someone is in emotional distress and what to do about it.
“Over 2,000 people have been trained in our area,” he said. A second program is PAX Good Behavior Game that teaches kids self-regulation, a key component to living a healthy, drug-free life. “Over 500 teachers are trained in our area,” he said.
Schoenhofer said that in the three counties served by the Mental Health & Recovery Services Board, more than 2,500 youth got help for a mental health issue or a substance use disorder and almost 8,000 adults were treated, as well. He said public awareness about agency programs is increasing.
“More and more people are realizing that there is help locally, including over 50 businesses who have participated in our drug-free workplace program,” he added.
Other services provided are the crisis hotline, HOPEline, which is available 24/7 and has responded to 12,346 calls in 2017. Also there are expanded school-based prevention services to more than 8,000 students in more than 25 schools, an expanded location of clinical services to Wapakoneta, expanded housing for people in recovery, a renovated local crisis stabilization unit to include detox services for people with addiction and a youth behavioral services space addition in Kenton planned for the spring of 2019.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.