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      Mental health levy weighs big on community service center

      The Mental Health Recovery and Services Board of Lucas County proposed levy Issue 24 to financially sustain programs and agencies that provide services to thousands in Lucas County who suffer from a mental health-related illness. Some programs now face dire straits if the levy fails.

      "We need stable funding so that we can assure that when services are needed, by those most critically in need of service, that service is available to them long-term," said Board Director Scott Sylak. He continued, "We no longer have the cash reserves to buffer any additional losses so that's why this levy is so critical."

      The MHRSBLC allocates funds to 17 community based agencies that provide treatment and support services to over 24,000 people annually. The Thomas M. Wernert Center in Toledo is a community support group that specializes in peer-to-peer interactions, offering those with disabilities a unique opportunity to improve their life.

      "We're the only center like this that the majority of staff are receivers of mental health services ourselves," said Kelly Skinner, Executive Director at the Wernert Center. Staffers and visitors have the opportunity to participate in daily activities, support sessions, and self-improvement courses. Tuesday morning members took part in designing pumpkins and a discussion about manners and politeness. It's a "No one knows better until you've walked in my shoe," kind of experience, added Skinner.

      One in four Lucas County residents are affected by mental illness and substance abuse. The 1 mill, 10-year levy will raise approximately $7.9 million and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $30.63 per year.

      The Wernert Center receives about 93-percent of its funding through the MHRSBLC. Revenue losses have already contributed to reductions in staffing and programs to the tune of nearly $3.9 million. If the levy fails, there is a strong possibility of additional cuts. "We'll have to do more with less," said Skinner.

      Heart and Soul: Caring for our Community is a fund-raiser dinner on Monday, October 22, that benefits the Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital and the Thomas M. Wernert Center. The $35/person event will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Zia's "at the docks."