Mental Health & Recovery Board to fund 9 new programs
By Jordyn Grzelewski
The Mahoning County Mental Health & Recovery Board on Monday approved a budget for fiscal year 2019 that will fund a number of new programs.
The new budget, retroactive to July 1 and running through June 30, is $10,995,785, an increase of about $800,000 over fiscal year 2018. The board plans to fund nine new programs this fiscal year.
“I think this [budget] reflects that we’re reaching out to meet some unmet needs in the community,” said Duane Piccirilli, agency executive director. “But this budget wouldn’t be possible without the collaboration of some other systems in Mahoning County,” such as juvenile court, the sheriff’s office, specialized court dockets, and the board’s agency partners.
The board is partly funded by local levy dollars ($4.1 million), and receives a significant portion of its budget from allocations and grants administered by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
One addition to the mental health and recovery board’s offerings will be a “System of Care” program the board created in partnership with the state.
Piccirilli explained that two funds the board had received from the state were being under-utilized, so the state combined the funds and redirected them to programs the county needed.
The board will receive $250,000 for that program, which will fund a new vocational program through COMPASS Family and Community Services for people with drug or alcohol dependencies; and services at Youngstown State University, provided by Meridian HealthCare, that will support students in recovery.
The board also is receiving additional mental-health grant funding to create a regional Crisis Stabilization Unit at COMPASS that will serve clients in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.
“The whole goal of this is to divert people from the state hospital,” Piccirilli said. “Our goal is that it will be a step down from the hospital to the community.”
The board also received a grant for a program that will provide support to Ohio prisoners diagnosed with a serious mental illness who are returning to the community within 90 days.
In all, the board plans to distribute about $8.4 million to its core partner agencies this year, a 6 percent increase over last year.
Another program that funding will support is the creation of a team of counselors employed by Alta Care Group and Meridian that will work in local schools. The pilot program will include Austintown, Boardman and Youngstown schools, and the Mahoning County Career & Technical Center and St. Joseph the Provider.
The board also plans to increase its support for the county’s homeless population with additional funding for programs through Catholic Charities Regional Agency. Those programs will increase outreach to the homeless; help homeless clients stay connected to social services; and help find stable housing for people leaving the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley.
“This is trying to break the cycle of homelessness,” Piccirilli said.
The board’s allocations to its core agencies also will fund the hiring of a licensed independent social worker to be shared by Meridian and Alta, and will support the Commons at Madison, which provides housing and support services to tenants with mental-health and addiction issues.
Additionally, Piccirilli highlighted the board’s contract with Mercy Health Foundation, in which the foundation has committed to matching more than $200,000 in funding for a number of initiatives.
One new program that comes from that partnership is an adult navigator at the Area Agency on Aging who will check in on at-risk individuals under age 65.
The board budgeted about $879,000 for salaries and benefits, a 7 percent reduction over last year due to the board not replacing someone who retired.
The board’s operating expenses budget of about $450,000 is a 28 percent increase over last year, driven partly by the levy the board has on the ballot in November.
Finance director Mark Dunlap said he budgeted about $135,000 for the cost the agency incurs to put an issue on the ballot and about $50,000 for advertising.
The board is seeking a renewal of an 0.85-mill levy and an increase of 0.50 mills. The board has resolved to not seek a renewal on another levy if the increase is approved, thereby combining levy millage and saving money on putting separate issues on the ballot every few years.