The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on News5Cleveland.com under a content-sharing agreement.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — After making mental health a priority since taking office in early 2019, Gov. Mike DeWine has signed $175 million in mental health expenditures into law.
The expenditures are divided into two tranches, according to documents provided by the Office of Budget and Management.
“This additional $175 million investment in mental health infrastructure expansion and workforce development is significant and garnered widespread legislative support,” OBM spokesman Pete LuPiba said in an email. “We look forward to continuing to work with the General Assembly on this crucial priority in the upcoming budget.”
According to a fact sheet OBM provided, 2.4 million Ohioans live in communities with a shortage of mental health professionals, 21% of the state’s residents have a mental health or substance-use disorder, and demand for behavioral health services increased 353% between 2013 and 2019 while the number of mental health professionals rose by just 174%.
According to a 2020 report by United Way, Ohio ranked in the middle of states when it came to access to mental health services, while Ohioans were the seventh least likely to seek such services.
One tranche of $90 million in new mental health funds will be dedicated to “mental health crisis infrastructure expansion initiatives.” The one-time spending will go to:
- Stabilization units
- Short-term crisis residential services
- Hospital diversion
- Step-down Centers
- Mobile-Crisis Response
- Behavioral Health Urgent Care Centers
The bill providing the funds requires that they be allocated regionally and that they be spent on construction, renovation and technology upgrades.
Another $90 million will go to develop human capital in the mental health system by funding programs for mental health licensure and certifications at Ohio’s two and four-year colleges.
“The health and success of Ohio’s families and communities depends on our ability to recruit, train, and retain the best talent to ensure Ohio has the most robust behavioral health workforce possible,” said DeWine said in a May press release announcing the initiative. “Behavioral healthcare workers are a valued and vital part of our healthcare system, and our efforts today are focused on helping to quickly infuse more qualified professionals into behavioral health care workplaces throughout the state. I look forward to working with the General Assembly, Ohio’s providers, and our colleges and universities on this innovative plan.”
Among the uses allowed in the legislation the money will be used to:
- Coordinate a multi-agency campaign and coordination of initiatives.
- Develop a program for scholarships and paid internship funds to colleges and universities.
- Fund short-term internships administered by the community behavioral health providers.
- Expand residency training and fellowship programs for advanced-practice registered nurses, physician assistants, and physicians dedicated to serving the behavioral health, geriatric, developmentally disabled communities.
- Provide funding to public colleges and universities that develop or increase capacity in distance-learning opportunities or additional degree programs that lead to credentialed or licensed behavioral health careers.
- Campaign to promote training programs for school guidance counselors, academic advisors in colleges and universities, and employment counselors to encourage people to seek training in mental health fields.