ICYMI — Athens Officials Push State To Reinvest In Communities

In case you missed it… As the state legislature considers the next two-year budget, Athens County public servants and addiction treatment experts are calling for the restoration of funding for local communities, highlighting how the loss in funding has hurt their ability to combat the addiction crisis and provide vital services.

KEY HIGHLIGHTS:

From The Athens NEWS: Local Democrat officials bemoan decline in state $$ help

  • Athens County’s sheriff and prosecutor, as well as Athens City Council’s president and the director of the local mental health/addiction recovery board, gathered in front of the county Courthouse last Tuesday to discuss how local government cuts and other Ohio legislative decisions have impacted the area.
  • City Council President Chris Knisely began the presentation — which was organized by the Ohio Democratic Party — by noting that the city of Athens had its local government funds cut in half by state government between 2010 and 2018. She said the local government funding provided by the state in 2010 was about $718,000; as of 2018 it was about half that amount.
  • Knisely contended that funding needs to be restored to help communities like Athens keep infrastructure in good repair, fund safety services, and bring economic development to the area.
  • County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said that since 2011, the Ohio Legislature has on three separate occasions increased the amount of responsibilities counties have relating to housing people convicted of felonies in jail, which has meant rising costs.
  • Meanwhile, Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith noted the importance of Medicaid expansion in Ohio, and said it has helped fund a local overdose response team through his and other county agencies.
  • “Without Medicaid expansion, it would be a lot more difficult for us to continue to try to help people with any kind of substance-abuse disorder,” Smith said.

From The Athens Messenger: Officials stress ‘critical need’ for more local gov’t funds

  • The state of Ohio needs to better invest in its communities and should not pass the financial burden to the local level, four officials argued at the Athens County Courthouse last week.
  • County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn, Sheriff Rodney Smith, Athens City Council President Chris Knisely and 317 Board Executive Director Earl Cecil advocated for more “local government funds” at a news conference April 30.
  • Knisely and others complained that such funds were lowered during Gov. John Kasich’s time leading the state. Calling the money a “critical need,” Knisely said “we would urge that local government funds be restored.”
  • Blackburn said the result of that funding loss has meant a shift of responsibility to pay for public services. In his office’s case, it’s meant that Athens County has paid a higher share for the prosecution and housing of criminals. Blackburn described felonies as being a statewide criminal issue that should be paid for by the state.
  • The sheriff focused his concern on a related issue, Medicaid expansion in Ohio. He said expansion should be prioritized, particularly to help in funding treatment programs for those affected by the opioid addiction crisis.
  • The 317 Board serves Athens, Hocking and Vinton counties and is more formally known as the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board. Cecil, the board’s executive director, said his organization works closely with local governments and stressed the need for those entities to be properly funded.
  • Cecil said the funding goes toward much more than addiction treatment; he outlined broader needs of education, transportation, jobs, secure and sober housing. Still, both he and the sheriff noted that each dollar not spent on such issues can cost government much more in the long run.

From WOUB: Athens Officials Requests More Funding to Combat Opioid Crisis

  • Athens community leaders and the Ohio Democratic Party are asking for more money in the local government budget in order to better mitigate substance abuse problems.
  • Chris Knisley, president of Athens City Council, spoke at a press conference with other local officials about the state’s decision to cut local government budgets and how it has impacted Athens.
  • “In 2011, Governor Kasich cut the local government funds by 50 percent. This has meant a drastic reduction for the city of Athens in particular,” Knisley said.
  • “These are the hundreds of thousands of dollars that we’re needing to use for our infrastructure, our basic safety for our community and our efforts to develop our community for economic development purposes.”
  • Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith expanded on what Knisley said by explaining there needs to be more financial support for the Medicaid expansion program in the county.
  • “Without the Medicaid expansion program, it will be a lot harder for us to help people with substance abuse disorders.”
  • Earl Cecil, a member of the 317 Board for Alcohol and Drug Addiction Program agrees with Smith that more funding is needed for local agencies to combat the opioid crisis but said it takes more than treatment for people to recover from any substance abuse disorder.
  • “They need education perhaps and they need jobs,” Cecil said. “They need safe and secure sober housing, transportation, healthcare and more than anything else they need hope. Without having the services locally to provide to these folks, it becomes more difficult.”

READ MORE:

The Athens NEWS: “Local Democrat officials bemoan decline in state $$ help

The Athens Messenger: “Officials stress ‘critical need’ for more local gov’t funds

WOUB: “Athens Officials Requests More Funding to Combat Opioid Crisis