Did you know that recovery rates for mental illness and addiction are comparable to those of physical illnesses? Recovery from mental illnesses or addictive disorders requires a variety of treatment and support services. The continuum of care should include prevention and wellness, screenings, engagement, crisis services, outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment and community support services.

Federal and state funding covers a limited range of clinical services. This leaves local communities to fill in the gaps to provide programs and supports that are equally as critical to an individualís recovery process.

Thanks to strong community support, Summit County residents have a rich array of services and supports available to them through the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board. Over 70 percent of the boardís resources come from the property tax levy approved by Summit County voters. It is through those levy dollars that people without insurance can still get the help they need.

As Ohioís leaders begin crafting the next biennial budget, we must work together to make mental illness and addiction prevention, treatment and recovery supports a statewide priority and work to eliminate the stigma that keeps many from seeking and receiving treatment.

According to the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authority, only 40 percent of children and adults struggling with a mental illness can access treatment.

Even worse, only 10 percent of youth and adults with substance abuse disorders get needed treatment. We know that having health insurance significantly improves health and quality of life. By appropriately funding Ohioís mental health and addiction services, we can greatly improve successful treatment and save both lives and dollars.

Ohio can do better. The need is real. The time is now.

We urge Ohio leaders to consider these two issues in budget discussions in order to ensure that all Ohioans in need of mental health and addiction services can recover and thrive:

First, the state must make a significant investment of additional general revenue funding for alcohol, drug addiction and mental health prevention, treatment and support services. All Ohioans, regardless of ability to pay or eligibility for Medicaid, need access to treatment and recovery supports. Providing this funding would help ensure essential services for children and adults to help keep Ohioís families healthy, stable and strong.

Second, we encourage the governor and the General Assembly to further ensure safe and stable children and families in Ohio by providing additional access to mental health and addiction services by expanding Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, as allowed by the Affordable Care Act.

We recognize that Gov. Kasich and the General Assembly have many difficult decisions to make, but we strongly believe that investing in the health and well-being of Ohioís citizens is not only the right thing to do for Ohioans, it is a sound investment in helping Ohio lead the nation on the path to economic recovery.

Gerald A. Craig

Executive director

Summit County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board