By Marc Kovac
Maureen Waybright has struggled with mental illness for decades.
Before an audience of reporters and advocates at the Statehouse on Wednesday, the Alliance woman recounted hospitalizations for “an illness that was out of control, that I didn’t understand.”
She described family members taking care of her children, the government-assistance programs that helped her get medical assistance and detailed the other support she needed to go back to work.
“Without the medical insurance I so desperately needed in order to keep up with my mental-health medications, in order to keep up with my mental-health treatments, in order to have coverage for my children ... there was no way that I could return to work,” Waybright said. “Without that coverage, I would not be the full-time employee that I am today.”
She added, “Medicaid expansion is extremely important for people with serious and persistent mental illnesses and those who suffer from alcohol and drug addiction.”
Waybright was among the speakers at a press conference, the latest in a series coordinated by those who support expanding Medicaid eligibility.
The issue will be a focus of lawmakers’ attention when they return to the Statehouse, though House Speaker Bill Batchelder told reporters earlier this week that voting sessions would not resume until October.
The governor and other supporters talk “about expansion,” Batchelder said. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
But mental-health advocates said otherwise.
Speakers included Maurice Clarett, Youngstown native and former Ohio State University running back who was key in the Buckeyes’ 2002 national championship. He later was dismissed from OSU, spent time in prison on robbery and other charges and has struggled with depression.
“My thoughts are straight, my head is calm, I can see life slowly,” Clarett said, referring to the mental-health assistance he has received. “I’m fortunate enough now to be able to pay for the medication out of pocket ... but there’s a lot of people who suffer like me.”
Jim DeMint, the group’s president and a former congressman, cautioned Ohio lawmakers against a Medicaid expansion, calling the federal government’s promised funding of the move “fool’s gold.”
“It puts a lot of money on the table the first few years,” DeMint said. “And some governors have accepted it, but over half of the states have not because if you look at the cost over a 10-year period ... it’s going to cost Ohio billions of dollars to put more people on Medicaid. The budget strains that you have now as a state are going to get increasingly worse.”