Budget battle happening over mental health awareness campaign ad money

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COLUMBUS, OH (WCMH)– Mental health groups rallied outside the Ohio Statehouse Friday asking the Ohio Senate to restore money for mental health awareness advertising campaigns back into the two-year state budget currently being debated.

The state budget already passed by the Ohio House of Representatives had $36 million over the biennium in the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services budget for statewide prevention, treatment and stigma reduction campaigns, education, curricula and services for children and adults in the Ohio Budget Bill.

The Senate took that money out of their version of the budget, saying the $18 million a year can be better spent on treatment programs rather than advertisements.

“We think that nearly $40 million dollars worth of television commercials is much better invested in programs and services at the local level that really help the people who are struggling with mental health and addiction to really get the services they need and deserve,” said Ohio Senate Republicans spokesman John Fortney.

“It’s not only advertising. It’s education. Kids spend a certain amount of time in school; however, you have summer break, winter break, you have all these other times that you’re actually in the community, and we need to make sure this is a message that’s environmentally heard and not just something that is heard in school,” said Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation executive director Tony Coder. “So hearing it on billboards, hearing it on the radio– that’s where a lot of folks are going to get their information and that’s why we would like to see this put back in the budget.”

Cindy Price’s son Tim took his own life at age 39. She is now an advocate for suicide prevention and mental health awareness. She wants the advertising dollars to stay in the budget so efforts that have help reduce the stigma she says surrounds mental health can continue.

“When my son died ten years ago, suicide was a stigma, and I’ve worked very hard to make it now more approachable– people talk about it more,” said Cindy Price with the Clark County Loss Team.

“Today is much different than it was ten years ago. Society is even much different than it was five years ago. These issues are much more out in the open– much more recognized, and we think it’s a much better investment to take the dollars that you might see on a TV ad once and get that money right into the programs that really make a difference,” Fortney added.

What Fortney and Price do agree on is that early education is key for suicide prevention and mental health awareness. Fortney says that is why the Senate’s version of the budget has an additional $500 million for mental health programs in K-12 schools.

“We need that education and the information to pass out,” said Price. “We need to be able to go into the schools and give them the information.”

“We want to be able to invest directly into the programs that work and much of that starts at the local level, Fortney added. “That’s one of the reasons why thought the additional half billion dollars directed through K-12– you want to get in front of the problem as soon as possible.”

Governor Mike DeWine’s proposed executive budget included the $36 million for stigma reduction campaigns. A spokesperson for his office said Friday the governor has always been an advocate for mental health programs and preventing childhood suicides.

If you or you believe someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation‘s Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273- 8255 or text ‘4HOPE’ to 741-741.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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