COLUMBUS — Executive Director Robin Harris of the Gallia-Jackson-Meigs Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board addressed the Ohio House of Representatives Finance Committee recently to share its thoughts on what Ohio needs to do to provide resources in order for the state to find hope when fighting its opioid drug epidemic.
The finance committee is overseeing state concerns with the coming two-year proposed budget with Gov. John Kasich’s Office.
“Specifically we were testifying about what we believe the needs are related to behavioral health with what we see as an increase in severe mental health as well as addiction,” said Harris. “Statewide ADAHMS boards were asking for three specific things. We were asking for the state to consider investments in opening regional detox centers. We were asking for an investment for increased crisis beds (in mental health facilities) for people with mental illness. The third thing we were asking for was an allocation for an array of community-based services for people facing mental illness and addiction.”
Harris said the third option was often called recovery support outside of things Medicaid would cover.
“As the legislators questioned after we testified, I did make the case for the need of prevention services that are determined locally,” said Harris. “Typically, what’s been happening is that when the state allocates money for prevention they predetermine from a list of evidence-based programs what works and doesn’t work. What we find here is that when a person has gone through all the testing to enter an evidence-based program, many times it doesn’t resonate well in rural communities. It’s hard to create the same conditions. They’ve often been tested in more urban settings. It’s been a continuing frustrating to me that we haven’t had access to the resources to work on prevention to substance abuse in a way that makes sense in our (rural) communities.”
Harris said money allocated to the local ADAHMS boards in a flexible manner could then be used at the discretion of the boards to tailor resources to the needs of a region.
“It’s like what we saw at the library the other night (a coalition Citizens for Prevention and Rehabilitation event), there’s a lot of interest from the medical community, to school to law enforcement, behavioral health and community members but we need the flexibility to determine what works for us,” said Harris. “That kind of ended up being the fourth (request).”
Harris said she felt her visit with state legislators was productive and they asked thoughtful questions regarding the state of behavioral health in southeast Ohio as well as other rural regions. She commended State Representative Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) for his persistence in representing his home region while also being the chair of the House Finance Committee.
Dean Wright can be reached at 74—446-2342, ext. 2103.