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Opioid-Related Levies Find Mixed Success Among Ohio Voters

South Central Ohio Job and Family Services covers Ross, Vinton and Hocking counties.
Gabe Rosenberg

Even beyond the failed Issue 1, the impact of the opioid crisis was all over Ohio ballots on Tuesday – from candidates with proposed opioid solutions to county levies for strained children services departments.

Children Services Levies

New data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes an increase in the number of children in foster care in 2017, but the number of kids entering the system is going down.

The opioid epidemic continues to burden foster care and children services throughout Ohio, prompting a near-record number of levies on the ballot.

“We have about 3-4,000 more children in custody on any given day in Ohio this year than we did just five years ago,” said Scott Britton of The Public Children Services Association of Ohio.

Ohio voters passed 15 of 17 levies to fund children services – a mix of renewals, replacements, and increases.

“It simply is becoming unsupportable for us to manage those – we don’t have enough foster care families to house these children, we don’t have enough funding in our county-administered agencies locally to provide the necessary services for these kids,” Britton said.

In some counties, the levy will cover child and adult protective services. In other counties, including Summit the levy will help cover care and placement costs.

Children Services levies failed in Columbiana and Coshocton counties, but Britton says that’s standard for first-time levies.

Britton says 51 Ohio counties now have children services levies.

Lorain Rejects Levy For Drug Treatment Beds

Other levies around Ohio that fell short, too. A Lorain County tax levy for a drug treatment center failed, with 52 percent of voters opposed.

Lorain County Commissioner Matt Lundy says the money would have paid for detox beds and other improvements to a senior living facility that had been turned into a recovery center.  

“When some folks say, ‘Hey I’m ready to move forward, turning my life around,’ but people are told they may have to find a place in Cuyahoga, may have to find a place, some other place in the country, but we don’t have beds available for you here,” said Lundy.

Lundy says without the levy, the facility may have to settle for less than the 70 beds originally planned.

The county will discuss options for moving forward next week.

“We believe the need is there,” said Lundy. “We’re going to reach out to state leaders, federal leaders for their assistance, and we’ll probably have to start with a smaller programming model than what we feel the community needs.”