Governor Mike DeWine to prioritize expanding mental health services and research in his next budget proposal

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Governor Mike DeWine unveiled a sweeping plan Wednesday that would increase Ohio’s mental health services by investing millions in expanded services, research and workforce development.

The proposal, which DeWine says will be presented to lawmakers next year as part of his state budget plan, will include building a new behavioral health research center in the state, conducting a “landmark study” of the root causes of mental illness and addiction. and ensure Ohioans can get a full range of mental health services in their area.

The governor also renewed his proposal made earlier this year to use $85 million in federal coronavirus aid for paid internships and residencies for aspiring mental health workers. that plan it’s been on ice for months.

DeWine did not say Wednesday how much total funding he would devote to mental health priorities when he presents his budget proposal to state lawmakers.

“Every day in Ohio, we have families in crisis. They need immediate help. And all too often, however, they have nowhere to go, no idea where to go. So, your loved ones suffer. Families suffer,” DeWine said during a health care summit hosted by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce in downtown Columbus. “We must, we must, change this. Now we must make behavioral health visible, accessible and effective in every Ohio community.”

For example, DeWine said, when an Ohioan receiving treatment for mental health problems is released from a hospital, the state must help that person get community care or at least regularly scheduled counseling sessions.

DeWine, a Greene County Republican, said his plan seeks to help remedy “unfinished business” from decades ago, when President John F. Kennedy signed into law releasing thousands of people from mental hospitals. Kennedy’s plan was to replace custodial care with community services, DeWine said, but that half of the plan has “tragically” never been carried out, either in Ohio or nationally.

The governor highlighted these same mental health issues in his State of the State address earlier this year, saying he wanted Ohio to “lead the world in behavioral health research, community care and workforce development.” On Wednesday, the governor highlighted his administration’s work on mental health issues thus far, including the creation of the Ohio RISE programwhich helps extend Medicaid coverage to children with multiple behavioral health problems so that their parents do not lose custody of them.

It remains to be seen how state lawmakers will receive DeWine’s proposals, which make significant changes to each governor’s two-year budget plans before signing them into law.

In addition to his mental health plan, DeWine, who was re-elected to a second term earlier this month, vowed during his second term to boost a far-reaching proposal to help Ohio’s childrenincluding expanding Medicaid eligibility and publicly funded child care for low-income Ohioans, adding mental health resources for postpartum mothers, and increasing foster care spending.

Following DeWine’s speech, the governor told reporters that his administration is also looking to provide additional scholarship money for Ohio students attending Ohio colleges and universities.

“We have middle-class families struggling to even send a child to a state university today. That shouldn’t be happening,” DeWine said. “I think we have an obligation in the state to make sure that the scholarships are there and that they are strong.”

DeWine said his staff is still working out the details of what the proposed scholarship changes will look like.

Jeremy Pelzer covers state government and politics for and The Plain Dealer. Read more of his work here.

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