The Press Newspaper
Agencies seek millage for continuing services
Social service agencies in Wood and Sandusky counties are asking for additional millage Nov. 5 to maintain programs.
The Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities is seeking voter approval of a 2.95-mill, 5-year levy that will, if passed, generate about $8 million annually.
Also known as Wood Lane, the board provides specialized services through programs such as Early Intervention, Wood Lane School and Wood Lane Industries. It also provides residential service programs.
Melanie Stretchberry, superintendent, said no new programs are included in the agency’s financial forecast but the number of persons needing service is expected to climb. Since the agency last passed a levy in 2000, the number of those receiving service has more than doubled.
“The intensity of the needs of individuals served has also increased,” she said. “The number of individuals who experience and survive trauma at an early age has significantly increased with improving health care and advances in medical technology. However, their medical and physical assistance needs are increased.”
Since 2000, a Life Enhancement Options program that provides structured day and older adult services and adult recreation has been added.
Also, the agency implemented a transition program to provide assistance for those between 14 and 22 with a developmental disability to obtain skills needed for employment.
Stretchberry said cost cuts have been enacted, including $175,000 in spending reductions on capital expenditures, dropping a $64,000 annual lease with the Jordan Family Center at the end of the year, and reducing co-pays for programs.
“The only non-mandated services include the school and Special Olympics,” Stretchberry said. “Wood County is one of only eight counties that continue to operate a school but will continue to do so. The alternative to a successful levy is simply to cut staff and reduce Wood Lane’s services.”
The agency is projecting a general operating fund balance of about $7.1 million by the end of 2013 – a decrease of about $5.3 million from December 2012. The annual budget is about $29.9 million.
The levy will generate about $900,000 annually if passed.
Nancy Cochran, executive director of the board, said the agency has since 2009 followed a policy for allocating levy funding: 10 percent for board operations, 10 percent for emergency services, 20 percent for local initiatives and 60 percent for client services.
She said the local initiatives include programs operated by agencies such as Family and Children First Council, the county health department, schools and courts that apply for funding with a 20 percent match and a plan to keep the programs intact when MHRS funding ends.
Although the MHRS board’s jurisdiction also covers Seneca and Wyandot counties, the levy will be used only Sandusky County services, Cochran said, adding the other counties are funded by separate levies.
Cochran sees additional challenges looming for the board.
“We are talking with school personnel who are stating kids today are facing challenges to their mental health that are very disconcerting: sexting, cyber-bullying, dealing with families involved in destructive behaviors. Sandusky County is not immune from any of this. We need to be helping more than what our federal and state dollars are funding,” she said.
Sandusky County is also a pilot county for a medication assisted treatment program.
“Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem, growing worse because the street value has outpaced the means to pay,” she said. “So young adults are turning to heroin, which is not the heroin of the ‘60s. Today’s heroin is much more potent and addictive and it’s hitting every socio-economic class. We are working closely with Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services and the pharmacy company that makes Vivitrol, which cannot be altered to become a street drug. That is why we chose Vivitrol rather than Suboxone, which had a history of alteration.”
The Sandusky County Health Department is seeking renewal of a 0.5-mill, 5-year levy for operating expenses.