YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The state of Ohio is changing the way it funnels federal dollars to local communities for addiction treatment programs, creating a $20 million shortfall this year for agencies and services across the state.
David Pepper, a candidate for Ohio Attorney General, and state lawmakers held a press conference Tuesday morning in downtown Youngstown, calling on current Attorney General Mike DeWine and the governor’s office to bridge a substantial funding gap for local addiction services.
Starting Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will distribute $63 million in federal grant money for local addiction services over 18 months instead of one year. That means all 88 counties will see $20 million less than they did last year.
State officials said the temporary policy change is meant to fix cash flow delays at the federal and state levels and bring long-term stability to the system.
But Pepper said it also creates a 30 to 40 percent cut in funding for addiction services in 50 counties statewide, including Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana, at a time when heroin addiction is reaching epidemic proportions in the Buckeye State. Last year, there were 1,000 heroin overdose deaths statewide.
“There is no money at the local level to make up for that gap, so what is going to happen is fewer people get treatment, more people will be turned away and that is only going to make the problem worse,” Pepper said.
State Rep. Nick Barborak, D-Lisbon, said the Columbiana County board will face a $137,000 cut, which is one-third of the allotted money for treatment and addiction services.
State Rep. Ron Gerberry, D-Austintown, said a bill that would have filled the funding gap was tabled in the Ohio House.
Brenda Heidinger, executive director of the Mahoning County Alcohol & Drug Addiction Services Board, was in Columbus on Tuesday with approximately 900 people from all over the state for an opiate conference.
“It [funding cut] will mean that we will be unable to serve as many medically indigent clients who do not have access to health care through either private insurance, self-pay or Medicaid,” Heidinger said.
Heidinger said they won’t know their actual allocation from the state until the end of the month. She already is working with local agencies to stretch dollars to serve as many people as possible.