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Elections

Lorain County mental health board to place levy renewal on May ballot

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ELYRIA — The Lorain County Board of Mental Health will place a 5-year, 0.6-mill renewal levy on the May ballot to continue to generate the funds it needs to operate.

The county commissioners unanimously approved the motion after the board’s executive director, Kathleen Kern, gave a presentation on why renewal is needed.

In 2012, changes in federal and state funding forced the board to make changes, and it is now “100 percent reliant on local funds,” according to Kern.

The board is run by 18 volunteer leaders — six of whom are appointed by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the other 12 by the commissioners. While the Board of Mental Health doesn’t provide direct services to clients, it does provide important roles, Kern said.

“We have three fundamental roles,” she said. “The first is to identify the mental health needs in the community. The second is to fund community mental health agencies and other partners to meet those needs. The third is to go back and make sure, through audits and outcomes, that those investments met the community need.”

The board funds crisis services, which handles upward of 13,000 crisis calls a year. A ‘‘warmline” has been recently added, as well, which was created in recognition that not all are in such a crisis that they need hospitalization, but just need a friendly voice to talk to, according to Kern.

The warmline handled around 1,000 calls in its first year.

Kern said the Board of Mental Health has also “dramatically” increased attention to children in crisis. That increased attention has worked to help community members, including police, have a better understanding of how to deal with children in crisis situations.

A recent survey showed that 7 percent of sixth-graders had attempted suicide in the last year. Also, more than a third of 10th graders admitted they were so depressed that it impacted their ability to do things for more than two weeks, according to Kern.

Contact Scott Mahoney at 329-7146 or smahoney@chroniclet.com. Follow him @SMahoney on Twitter.

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