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Levy to help residents cope with addiction, illness

Annie Zelm • Nov 5, 2011 at 2:00 PM

Every week, counselors in Sandusky County see people whose lives have been shattered by their addiction to prescription painkillers.

When they can no longer afford those, many turn to heroin and other illegal drugs, said Nancy Cochran, director of the recovery services board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot counties.

A new program designed to treat opiate addiction is expected to help at least 100 people in the first few months, but it comes at a cost: The monthly injections alone cost about $1,000 per person. That doesn’t cover blood work and other related costs.

Cochran hopes voters will support a levy this November to help pay for that program and others that help people of all ages cope with some of the toughest times in their lives.

Voters have turned down the 0.8-mill levy each year since 2006.

Cochran said she believes many voters still don’t realize that it benefits only residents in Sandusky County — the other two counties the board serves already have separate levies in place.

Sandusky County desperately needs the funding, Cochran said, and not just to combat addiction.

The money also benefits programs such as Help Me Grow, which provides early intervention for young children and their families, and the health department’s Prevention Partnership, a program designed to help school-aged children steer clear of drugs and make good decisions.

It reaches schools and law enforcement agencies, who also use the money for education and counseling.

When a child dies of cancer, for instance, employees at Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services talk with the students trying to make sense of the loss of their classmate.

The recovery services board operates on a total budget of about $7.5 million from state and federal funds, but each of the three counties needs local funding to run its local programs and provide counseling services.

This year, the money used to treat Sandusky County residents had run out by about mid-April, so people who weren’t covered by Medicaid had to be put on a waiting list. If the levy fails again this year, Cochran said no one will be turned away, but people may have to wait longer to get the help they need.

“It may be 8-12 weeks before they get an appointment,” she said. “If someone has to wait 8-12 weeks, they may talk themselves out of even going. That’s a huge concern.”

WHAT: A five-year, 0.8-mill levy to fund mental health services for Sandusky County only. The levy is expected to generate about $940,000 per year.

AT STAKE: Programs that benefit children, families and the elderly in Sandusky County. Among them is a school program to combat bullying and a new program for people addicted to painkillers.

COST: About $2 per month for the owner of a $100,000 home — less than $25 per year.

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