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ADAMH; New levy for mental health wins handily

By Encarnacion Pyle

The Franklin County ADAMH Board could have waited as late as next November to seek voter support of a replacement levy and not lose any funding.

But even with six ballot successes behind them, agency officials knew that anything can happen at the polls, especially during tight financial times.

The board's approach paid off yesterday as the 10-year, 2.2-mill levy soared to approval with 62.8 percent of county voters supporting it, according tounofficial results.

The last time the agency had a levy request on the ballot, in 1996,it garnered 61 percent of the vote. The Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board'sbiggest win came in 1984, when nearly 65 percent of voters passed its levy.

"This community again has said that people with mental illness matter," David A.Royer, ADAMH's chief executive officer, said last night.

Voters have turned down ADAMH only twice: in May 1970, when it asked for a new0.75-mill levy and in November 1995, for a 0.2-mill increase.

The current levy, which expires at the end of 2006, is being collected at 1.49mills because state law rolls back millage asproperty values rise. The levy provides nearly 40 percent of the agency's annual revenue, with most of its money coming from the state and federal governments, including reimbursements for Medicaid.

The county tax raises $43 million a year.

Beginning in 2007, the replacement levy will return to 2.2 mills. It is to generate $65million a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 house $67 a year, about $22more than the current levy.

The money will allow the 42 mental-health and drug- and alcohol-abuse treatment programs that ADAMH funds to treat more people, including children, immigrants and senior citizens.

Preventing suicide among youths, which is the third-leading cause of death nationally forpeople ages 10 to 19, will be among the priorities.

For years, the agency has dealt with decreasing or flat funding from city, county,state, federal and private sources.

As a result, ADAMH cut funding to providers by 6.6 percent in 2001 and 2.4 percent last year.

"We now have an opportunity and responsibility to expand prevention programs,especially for children," Royer said.

The levy will allow the agency to invest $66 million in additional treatment over10 years, $6.5 million in new prevention services and $800,000 to build 250 housing units.

ADAMH invests in programs that help people help themselves, spending 95 cents of every dollar on direct services, said Katie Feick,51, of Worthington,who helped promote the campaign.

Feick credited the agency with putting her on the road torecovery after her severe depression, anorexia and bulimia were diagnosed at age 31.

"ADAMH has saved my life," she said. "It's helping me with my recovery and dream of becoming an active, taxpaying part of the community again."

Copyright 2005, Used with permission from The Columbus Dispatch.

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