The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

April 18, 2012

Indigent drug care big county problem

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP —  The challenges of providing drug and alcohol rehabilitation treatment services to the county’s indigent were driven home to a state official Tuesday.

Orman Hall, director of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, met with the Ashtabula County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board and Kathleen Kinney, executive director of Lake Area Recovery Center. Also attending the meeting were County Prosecutor Attorney Thomas Sartini and Common Pleas Judge Alfred Mackey, who presented an overview of the county’s drug court program.

Kinney earlier this spring invited Hall to come to Ashtabula County and learn about the challenges facing the treatment programs. Hall, who was appointed by Gov. John Kasich in January 2011, said he periodically visits county boards to become familiar with their needs and programs. His is a cabinet level position.

Hall said the state’s budget woes are being felt across the state, but he is impressed with how Ashtabula County has focused its limited resources on effective programs. He said many other communities “would have thrown up their hands in a sense of helplessness” if faced with the local challenges.

“They’ve done an amazing job with intervention,” he said. “I’m very impressed with what this community is able to do with limited resources.”

Kinney said that 10 years ago, LARC’s total funding was around $1.2 million. “Now, it’s less than half that, and we have even greater demand now that we had 10 years ago,” she said.

LARC, a nonprofit agency that offers both outpatient and residential treatment services, served about 1,200 clients last year. Kinney said the earliest a new client could receive an assessment is late June.

He said state lawmakers need to hear from their constituents on the funding issues.

“This is a critical, really critical year,” he said.

The eye-opener for Hall was the huge number of cases in Ashtabula County that involve Medicaid recipients and how insufficient the funding is the indigent. About 90 percent of those who come through drug court do not have a job.

While Turning Point receives a federal grant to assist women with residential treatment, the section of the facility that treats men has been closed since January because funding has disappeared.

Hall was especially interested in learning how the local board uses some of its money to fund the county’s drug court, which in turn contracts for services with LARC. But funding restrictions limits the program to only high-risk offenders.

“We’re very proud of what we do here, but we need to do more,” Sartini told Hall.

Hall warned the local directors that there will be even more people eligible for public services when the federal health care law’s 2014 provisions kick in.

“Hopefully, you’ll be ready for the expanded eligibility,” he told them.

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