Mental health levies on ballot in Morgan, Noble

While Washington County ballots will be void of any county-wide issues this November, neighboring residents in both Morgan and Noble counties will be deciding whether or not to renew a longstanding mental health and recovery services levy.

The levy, which is administered through the six-county Muskingum Area Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, varies from county to county in millage and annual revenue. But in every case, all of the funding generated by a particular county goes back toward services in that county, said Rod Hollingsworth, director of the board.

“The philosophy we started with was each county should have their own decision,” he said.

In addition to Morgan and Noble counties, the board oversees services in Coshocton, Guernsey and Perry counties. All but Guernsey County have levies in effect. Services in Guernsey County are funded through state and federal dollars, not through funding generated in other counties, said Hollingsworth.

In Morgan County, residents have continually passed the 0.8-mill levy since 1994.

In Noble County, the 0.7-mill levy has been in effect since 1989.

Typically renewed every 10 years, the levy was put on the 2008 Noble County ballot as a five-year levy with the hope of reintroducing a 2013 replacement levy instead of a renewal.

However, the board did not feel the economy was strong enough to introduce a replacement, which would have negated state rollbacks and increased the price for residents.

“We did another renewal. So it’s no more dollars to the taxpayer than what they are currently paying,” said Hollingsworth.

In Morgan County, the owner of a property valued at $100,000 will pay $10.71 annually. The same Noble County property owner will pay $13.04 annually.

The levy funds mental health and addiction counseling services in both counties, as well as school outreach and prevention programs.

At Morgan Behavioral Health Choices, the levy supplements the substance abuse education and counseling services used by individuals, families and groups, said Director Elaine Shuster.

“We’ve been serving Morgan Countians for over 30 years. We feel we make a difference and everybody here is here because they want to help people,” she said.

In addition to the counseling services offered at the outpatient facilities, the levy helps fund several prevention programs for children, including the Student Assistance Services program in Morgan Local elementary schools.

“We have two student consultants in those schools that work with kids who are acting out, having social problems, academically underachieving,” Shuster said.

The Morgan Behavioral Health Choices board also partners with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office and American Electric Power for its annual Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs program.

Around 800 people typically participate in the giant fishing event, aimed at encouraging parents to spend time with children.

Noble Behavioral Health Choices offers similar programming for Noble County residents. In addition, the levy funds a Six County Inc. counseling center and a Thompkins Child and Adolescent Services, Inc. office in both Morgan and Noble counties.