Within minutes of taking the oath of office in January, Governor Mike DeWine issued an executive order establishing the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council to guide his new administration’s efforts to address Ohio’s ongoing crisis of drug addiction and mental illness. The council’s appointees are comprised of advocates and experts across systems, representing state and local governments, private industry, primary and behavioral health care providers, law enforcement and criminal justice officials, educators, faith organizations, as well as individuals recovering from mental illness and/or substance use disorders (SUD) and their families. The group was tasked by the governor to develop recommendations to leverage existing resources to create efficiencies across various state agencies addressing Ohio’s behavioral health needs, as well as to identify opportunities for new investments that improve the state’s prevention, treatment and recovery efforts. Governor Mike DeWine has requested new behavioral health funding to address Ohio's ongoing drug and mental illness crisis. How much? Find out here Click To Tweet
On March 14, a day ahead of the release of DeWine’s budget proposal, the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council issued an initial report outlining a total of 75 policy recommendations to improve outcomes for Ohioans with SUD and/or mental illness.
On March 14, a day ahead of the release of DeWine’s budget proposal, the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council issued an initial report outlining a total of 75 policy recommendations to improve outcomes for Ohioans with SUD and/or mental illness. The Advisory Council structured this extensive list of recommendations by categorizing them into eight separate subject areas:
- Stigma reduction and education around behavioral health disorders
- Parity between insurance coverage of behavioral health care and physical health care
- Workforce development to recruit and retain needed behavioral health professionals
- Prevention of addiction and mental illness
- Harm reduction to reduce adverse consequences of drug use and mental illness
- Treatment and recovery supports including early intervention and crisis support
- Specialty populations including youth and individuals involved in the criminal justice system
- Data measurement and system linkage to better coordinate multi-system connections and measure outcomes
The Advisory Council’s full report, including all 75 recommendations within the above categories, can be found here.
The governor’s budget proposal was a clear sign that the RecoveryOhio report lays the groundwork for the administration to pursue audacious goals to improve behavioral health outcomes in Ohio. The executive budget announced more than $200 million in requests for new funding across multiple agencies in fiscal years 2020-2021 to begin enacting many of the RecoveryOhio recommendations. Though we will not know exactly how this proposed funding will be distributed in the state budget until the Ohio House of Representatives introduces a budget bill, the announcements coming from the governor’s office and cabinet officials provide an overview of the administration’s priority investments.
The governor’s budget proposal was a clear sign that the RecoveryOhio report lays the groundwork for the administration to pursue audacious goals to improve behavioral health outcomes in Ohio.
The table below outlines the administration’s proposed behavioral health investments, organized by which of the eight RecoveryOhio recommendation categories they most align with. Each investment listed in the table has been announced in one or both of the following sources:
- The Office of Budget and Management’s Executive Budget Fact Sheets and Blue Book
- Testimony from Health and Human Services Agency Directors before the House Finance Committee on Wednesday, March 20 (download here)
Table: Governor’s Proposed Behavioral Health Investments by Recovery Ohio Recommendation Area
RecoveryOhio Recommendation Areas Investments Announced in Executive Budget Stigma & Education $8M for new public awareness education campaign to reduce stigma associated with mental illness and SUD. Parity Workforce Development $8M for behavioral health workforce recruitment, training and retention efforts. $3M to improve the licensure and certification process for community-based behavioral health providers. $1.8M to launch a student loan repayment programs for community-based behavioral health providers and physicians providing medication-assisted treatment in underserved areas.
Prevention $20M to provide Ohio's schools with evidence-based prevention curricula and professional development for teachers. Harm Reduction $2M to expand access to opioid overdose reversal drug Naloxone. Treatment & Recovery $12M to expand the Ohio START (Sobriety, Treatment and Reducing Trauma) program to serve an additional 30 counties. $56M in investments in local treatment capacity, including $22M for Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Boards for crisis response efforts. $30M for Medicaid telehealth coverage in schools to facilitate behavioral health care access.
Specialty Populations $5M to create at least 30 more specialized docket courts to divert defendants into treatment rather than jail. $20M in Medicaid state share for multi-system youth innovation. Data Measurement & System Linkage $3.9M to create the Narcotics Intelligence Center to stabilize intelligence sharing and strengthen criminal investigations with high-tech analytical capabilities. $100,000 for a "system needs evaluation" to assess the state's behavioral health treatment capacity and inform strategic planning.
The proposals coming out of the RecoveryOhio Initiative and the governor’s budget signal a desire to invest in systemic solutions to Ohio’s addiction and mental illness needs, as highlighted by the emphasis on prevention, workforce and system linkage. The only RecoveryOhio recommendation category that has not yet been met with any budget proposals is parity. In its initial report, the Advisory Council highlighted the need for alignment of Ohio laws in accordance with the federal parity law, as well as better enforcement and education around those laws. Though state and federal parity laws have been in effect for more than a decade, patients and providers frequently still report disparities in access to physical and behavioral health services. The Center for Community Solutions will publish a report later this year on Ohio’s progress and needs around the issue of parity. In its ongoing work informing this administration’s policy agenda, the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council can be a powerful force to advocate for continued progress in this area.
Though state and federal parity laws have been in effect for more than a decade, patients and providers frequently still report disparities in access to physical and behavioral health services.
The coming weeks will provide additional details about the governor’s proposed investments in behavioral health, as well as the will of the Ohio House of Representatives to incorporate them into the chamber’s budget bill. Budget hearings are set to begin this week in the House Finance Subcommittees.