COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Funding mental health resources is a top priority and “money very well spent” for Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine as he is aiming to allocate more than $1 billion into the state’s budget.
“We have an obligation to help people who have a mental health problem. It’s in our interest, it’s in their interest and we need to continue to push forward and move forward,” DeWine said. “So, I am not going to back up on this. This is just vitally important.”
DeWine said in order to keep building the state up, there needs to be proper infrastructure to help Ohioans with mental illnesses. He said that includes both research facilities and resources.
“We need to build a system so that people will not have to wait, so no family has to say, “I can’t find a place,'” DeWine said. “We want every Ohioan to have the ability to live up to their god given potential and if someone has a mental health problem and it’s not being treated and it’s not being dealt with, they’re not living up to their full potential.”
The Ohio House of Representatives passed their version of the budget last week, but they made some cuts to mental health services. For example, the governor proposed $1.3 billion to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, but the House cut that by 20%. In another instance, DeWine proposed $11 million for early childhood mental health but that was cut by nearly 45%.
“We have to build this system, we cannot build it overnight,” DeWine said. “We started with our first budget then our second. This budget takes it up at a faster rate, it is a faster rate we can handle, but we have to do it.”
Part of DeWine’s proposed investment would also tackle mental illness at the school level.
“One half of the money a school gets, at least, at a minimum, has to be used for the area of mental health,” DeWine said. “We have some kids with some very serious mental health problems and who are coming to school with very serious problems.”
Plus, DeWine said helping people who were in prison will not only benefit them but will also help the state with workforce shortages.
“We want to do everything we can to make sure they don’t go back into prison, they don’t go back into jail and that they can become productive members of society and helping them with their mental health challenges is one way we can make sure we do this,” he said.