Ohio Adds $40M to State Addictions Care Budget

07/04/2013 –ATIN – At the urging of addictions enlightened Governor John Kasich, Ohio lawmakers this week boosted state addiction treatment drug rehab alcohol rehab spending by $40M – total behavioral health increase $100M – while also becoming the latest state government to merge the operations of its mental health and addictions agencies into one Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Services behavioral health super agency with an annual budget of $1.4B and 2,400 employees. Other states that have merged mental health and addictions services, moves that are long overdue given what we know about comorbidity between the two, include California, Arkansas and many others while Michigan is currently also considering following in Ohio’s footsteps.

Many States

In fact, well over half the states have made a move to create super addictions/mental health agencies over the last decade encouraged by funding from SAMHSA. The state agency merger trend reverses previous efforts in the 1970s and 1980s when many states split off the addictions function into separate units in order to give addictions more visibility apart from mental health, as addictions was then much more heavily stigmatized. But SAMHSA in the late 1990s made furthering dual diagnosis care among its very top priorities. For example, in 2003 The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) got a $3.5M grant from SAMHSA to act as consultant to the state in the merging of Arkansas’ two agencies. And not only have combined agencies been able to deliver better services, but savings have also been generated. In 2005, California state researchers estimated that combining agencies there would generate savings from administrative services of between $150M to $300M out of an annual addictions and mental health spend of over $3B. Researchers also noted that by pushing integration down to the local level, with 38 California counties merging their agencies by 2005, the increased focus and understanding of disease comorbidity and the improved ability to act in a reorganized department resulted in notable improved quality of service and outcomes.

Ohio Heroin Fight

Tracy Plouck, the former mental-health director, was sworn in on Sunday as chief of the new agency, where she will oversee a system that includes 460 treatment providers, 400 mental-health agencies and six state hospitals. The merger will not affect 50 county alcohol, drug-addiction and mental-health boards. Former Ohio director of Alcohol & Drug Addiction Services. Orman Hall, who is very close to Governor Kasich and is largely responsible for the keen attention paid to addictions developments at the highest level in the state, will remain in the governor’s cabinet. He will focus on the problems of heroin and pain-pill addictions, which are reaching epidemic levels in Ohio as elsewhere.

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