Stephen White, Central District Director and Counsel for Senator Rob Portman came to Morrow County Friday to update county officials and county agencies on what is happening at the federal level to combat the opioid epidemic.
He described several new possibilities in grant funding, many of which are through the efforts of Senator Portman.
It turned out that Morrow County people had some news for him to take back to Portman about cuts to drug courts Morrow County is facing. This is at the same time that Ohio is set to receive $26 million in federal grant monies from the 21st Century Cures Act and added funds from the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA) passed in 2016.
In the question/feedback session following White’s presentation of grant possibilities, Morrow County Court Administrator, Greg Thomas explained the present reality for Morrow County Drug Courts. Thomas said that he received news only 48 hours before the meeting that funding for Morrow County will be cut since we fall into a group of counties that do not qualify due to lower numbers of deaths due to opioids. The reason given was that this is because of the enormous number of applications for funding.
Thomas said he noticed that it was not the counties with large populations such as Cuyahoga, Hamilton and Franklin that received cuts, but four counties with small populations.
Thomas said this is crippling to the courts in small counties that will lose funding. The Morrow County drug courts are funded primarily through grants with federal and state funds.
Morrow County grant coordinator, Amanda Wheeler added that the Morrow County courts rely on grants for their funding. Without those grants and with the cuts, the courts will be forced to go to the County Commissioners for local funding. This will be a significant loss to small counties like Morrow, while large counties will continue getting the majority of the funds.
Steve Hedge of Morrow/Delaware Mental Health spoke to say these cuts are sending a mixed and wrong message.
“They want to stem the drug problem, yet pull the rug out from under the courts with these cuts,” said Hedges. “The Morrow County drug courts are effective, yet they will be losing money.”
Sundie Brown, Director of Morrow Job and Family Services spoke to say their agency is seeing the largest number of child custody cases for foster care they have seen in many years. Many are due to mothers and families addicted to drugs. Many babies are addicted from birth. Job and Family Services has to turn to Commissioners to get additional funding for foster care.
White asked if businesses in the area could help with some private funding. Hedge answered that Morrow County doesn’t have large businesses. A large number of the workforce travels out of the county for employment.
Hedges said that collaboration among law enforcement, schools and agencies has been the strength in Morrow County. He applauded the Sheriff and police for being “in the front line of the crisis.” He said Morrow County Health Department has also been central in working to identify problems and answers for addiction. County schools are also very involved.
White pledged to begin working on solutions for the problem of cuts immediately. He also offered to work with Drug and Alcohol Awareness and Prevention (DAAP) in coordinating grants and other projects.
At the end of the hour meeting, Sundie Brown said she is hopeful that the group brought some light onto the realities of the struggle to get funding in Morrow County. She hopes that bringing this issue to Senator Portman’s office can make some difference.
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