Report shows impacts of voter-approved fund on Summit County mental health initiatives
Strong Future Fund continues to bolster resources, access even as challenges remain
Nearly five years after its passage, a voter-approved fund is continuing to help Summit County health professionals make inroads in mental health care.
That was the takeaway from a quarterly report by Building Hope, a local mental health nonprofit, presented during a Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 29. The report outlined various ways the Strong Future Fund, which was created in 2018 through a mill levy on property, has increased mental health resources and access to treatment even as challenges remain.
The fund is a dedicated revenue source for early childhood care, behavioral health, fire mitigation, recycling and public infrastructure. Spending from the fund has totaled about $14 million this year, according to a 2023 budget report from the county government.
While the funding has boosted resources for some programs, it’s been an essential lifeline for others, according to the Building Hope report.
For example, 16% of the Summit County Care Clinic’s school counseling program has been funded through Strong Future funds, while the entirety of funding for the Family & Intercultural Resource Center’s mental health navigation program came from the fund.
By far the largest recipient of the fund is Building Hope’s scholarship program, which pays for up to 12 free therapy sessions, according to Nicole Maynard the nonprofit’s operations and grants manager.
“This is really Building Hope’s signature program,” Maynard said, adding, “The need for this program continues to grow.”
A common challenge across organizations is demand exceeding capacity. Needs are particularly high among Spanish-speaking clients for programs offered by the resource center and Paragon Home Youth & Family Services.
Other programs have needed to take on more local funding after House Bill 1287, a state law enacted in 2019 to expand treatment for substance use disorders, was not renewed over the last legislative session.
Maynard gave the example of Recovery Resources’ clinical withdrawal management program, an organization that she said is “currently affected by the loss of the 1287 funding, and so Strong Future is having to step in.”
Since 2021, progress has been made on multiple efforts to increase mental health care and opportunities, Building Hope staff said. That includes more outpatient treatment and counseling, such as psychiatric care, medications for addiction and improved case management systems throughout community programs and the criminal justice system.
“There’s obviously been a lot of community support that we’ve built with the community with the Strong Future funding,” said Building Hope Executive Director Kellyn Ender. “A lot of what Building Hope does within this is to help support all of these different programs.
“So we do a lot of help finding that community partner, helping identify kinds of programming, seeking out grant dollars,” Ender said.
Continued priorities for Strong Future funding in 2024 will include school-based services, and a co-responder team that pairs clinicians with law enforcement and jail-based services, Ender said.
Intensive outpatient services have been historically “identified as a gap for service” and are crucial for helping keep patients out of hospitalization and reintegrate within the community, Ender said.
“All of those things are continued priorities that really help build the structure and the system” for accessing care, Ender said.
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