By Timothy Cox
State funding for area mental health, drug and alcohol addiction counseling centers likely will be frozen at the level it has been for several years.
With state assistance stagnant so long, and costs -- such as staff salaries and benefits -- constantly rising, agencies face two obvious choices: provide less service or start charging more to those who can afford to pay.
However, Tri County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services Board, which oversees and provides partial funding to treatment agencies in Mercer, Van Wert and Paulding counties, tentatively decided on a third alternative.
The board vowed to dip into fiscal reserves to fund deficit budgets over the next couple of years and avoid cutting appropriations to its treatment agencies. Tri County is in charge of distributing state mental health and alcohol and drug treatment money in the area.
While the board tentatively approved keeping funding intact at existing levels, that approval is contingent on state funding remaining at existing levels. Exactly how much money will be available from the state won't be known until state legislators finish work on the two-year budget sometime later this month.
The state's fiscal year begins July 1.
Foundations Behavioral Health Services, Celina, is expected to get $703,169 to provide mental health counseling and treatment. Westwood Behavioral Health Center, Van Wert, is to receive $739,247 for mental health services and another $198,395 for alcohol and drug treatment. The Turning Point, Paulding, is to receive $312,350 for mental health services and $133,960 for alcohol and drug services. Gateway Outreach Center, Celina, is to receive $254,251 for alcohol and drug treatment services.
The alcohol and drug treatment contracts are frozen at 1999 funding levels. The mental health money also has been the same for several years after the service's funding took a cut a couple of years ago.
"Keeping the provider contracts intact at current funding levels even with higher administrative costs and tighter budgets is part of the board's plan to keep our services intact," Tri County Executive Director Keith Turvy said.
"This is in line with the board's strategic plan," Turvy said.
In addition to the money for the provider contracts, Tri County also has about $750,000 in other professional contract responsibilities and has approximately $450,000 in operational and administrative expenses. The board also is responsible for providing local matching money for Medicaid-eligible residents seeking treatment.
In addition to state funding, the Tri County system is supported by a 1-mill property tax collected in all three counties.