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10-05-02: Mercer County $120,000 coming to MRDD
By TIMOTHY COX
The Daily Standard
   
    The state is coming through with some promised money to help Mercer County and other "tax poor" counties pay for some mandated additions to all Ohio counties' boards of Mental Retardation and Development Disabilities (MRDD).
    Mercer County MRDD Superintendent Mike Overman said Gov. Bob Taft's approval Thursday of the release of $13 million to about half of the state's counties was good news. Overman estimates that Mercer County will receive about $120,000.
    The county MRDD board already had spent money to comply with the changes. Local officials had approved the spending with assurances -but some uncertainty- that the money would come through. Local officials had little choice but to trust that the state would keep the funding intact despite tight economic times because some of the changes were mandatory in order for MRDD boards to qualify for Medicaid reimbursement, Overman said.
    "There is always worry in a situation like that. We did get assurances they wouldn't take the cuts from that money," Overman said.
    A habilitation manager position was added to the staff and filled in March, Overman said. Another addition required by the new law mandated that each county have an investigator look into all "major unusual incidents" -Medicaid terminology that refers to all deaths, accidents, complaints of abuse or virtually any injury or complaint that could be considered outside the norm.
    Mercer County MRDD officials joined three other counties to hire an investigator to serve them all. None of the counties on its own could justify a full-time position for the low amount of work that would be involved.
    "This money is not like a windfall," Overman said of the state assistance. "We have things we need to spend it on."
    Overman said he expects the state money to arrive within a week or so when he will find out exactly how much the county gets.
    "I'm pleased that the state is able to reach individuals and their families who have waited so long for help, Taft said in a news release. "This will help eliminate the disparity in services throughout the state and improve the quality of life for thousands of people, no matter where they live in Ohio."
    This distribution follows $6.5 million in tax equity funds that were distributed in June 2002, bringing the total statewide allocation this year to $19.5 million. Mercer County received about $61,000 during the first round of funding.
    "The distribution of these funds is a good example of the administration's commitment to redesigning Medicaid to help more people and reassures county boards, providers, individuals and their families that we are making progress," said Kenneth W. Ritchey, director of the Ohio Department of MRDD.

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