Rally kicks off levy campaign

The Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board kicked off its mental health levy campaign with a rally Aug. 31.

Attended by more than 150 people, the rally was an effort to spread the word as to why the levy is so important and why it must pass this November.

The MHRB has received local levy funds for the last 25 years. Its first 10-year levy for .5 mil was passed in 1981 and was renewed in 1991. In 2000, a five year, .5 mil replacement levy also passed. Last year, a replacement levy with an increase was sent to voters and that levy failed.

“This year we are going for another replacement levy at the same .5 millage that was passed in 2000,” said Associate Director John Kies. “If passed, it will cost the $100,000 homeowner (assessed value) an annual $15.31.”

“The levy will affect every citizen in the county,” said Executive Director Karen Scherra in her opening remarks. “We will not be able to meet all of the needs for the people who need our services; they will in fact suffer and receive less services. We need to do everything that we can to ensure the levy’s success.”

The MHRB is a board governed by a volunteer, 18-member Board of Trustees. The board provides funds for many mental health and substance abuse agencies that service more than 4,000 consumers every year. Its three primary agencies are Child Focus, Inc., the Clermont Counseling Center, and the Clermont Recovery Center.

According to Kies, the levy must pass for a number of reasons.

“A major reason is the population increase in the county,” he said. “Everyone is aware that the county population has grown significantly, especially within the last 10 years. With this increased population comes a higher demand for the services that the board provides. People are demanding more services and a larger variety of services.”

Federal and state funding for mental health and drug and alcohol services has been either flat or declining as well.

“The board has even been unable to keep up with inflation to provide our services,” Kies said. “Last November, our levy did not pass and we had just over a $900,000 reduction in funding last year alone. In the event that this year’s levy does not pass, it would translate into another very significant reduction of $2 million.”

The MHRB has an annual operating budget of $10 million. Kies is concerned that if 20 percent of that amount is removed, it will significantly and adversely affect the people who rely on their services.

“The levy must pass,” he said. “If it fails, we will be forced to make additional reductions in our services.”

The services and programs that would be adversely affected include school-based services (the MHRB has counselors in all nine county school districts), adolescent alcohol and drug services, and adult mental health vocational services.

According to Scherra, the goal of all of the board’s services is to allow citizens to be productive members of society. They strive towards this goal by working very closely with county agencies, the courts, job and family services, and the local criminal, municipal, and common pleas court judges.

“People need to have reasonable resources available to them to get them on the right track,” she said. “The levy will continue funding and providing these necessary resources.”

Kies said that people should support and vote in favor of the levy because it is the right thing to do.

“The levy is important for the community as a whole. I think it certainly says something about who we are and what we value as a people. I think we all recognize that Clermont County is not immune and that we do have people with mental health and substance abuse problems. We need the community’s help to help those people. We can positively affect their lives