Washington County Behavioral Health Board taking time planning budget

MARIETTA — The Washington County Behavioral Health Board is taking a deliberate and careful approach to the coming year now that its operating budget has been vastly expanded by funding from the mental health levy that voters passed in November.

The levy, which applies 0.5 mills to property taxes and was approved by 53 percent of voters, is predicted to add about $737,000 to the board’s program budget.

“This is double or triple our operating funds,” David Browne, the board’s executive director, said Tuesday during a meeting of the board’s Program Planning and Oversight Committee. “We’re not used to having this much money, it’s almost like starting over. We’re not going to just start spending. That’s why we’re looking closely at the RFP (request for proposal) process.”

With word out about the additional money available, Browne said, inquiries about providing new programs are already coming in. Much of the committee meeting was taken up with discussion, led by committee member Jamie Raney, about the Request for Proposal template, the document which any organization applying to provide services, either by grant or contract, will need to follow.

In general, grants are written to nonprofits and contracts are applicable to for-profit organizations.

The five-page document, revised slightly during committee discussion, spells out the requirements for proposals to be considered, including information about the applicant, the purpose of the project, the expected outcome, inclusion of other resources or organizations, how the project will be evaluated, letters of support, certificates of qualification or other support in proof of experience and a summary of resources, staff, facilities and other requirements.

The recommended template will be put on the agenda for a full board meeting later this month.

The committee also discussed the need to expand staffing to manage new and expanded program responsibilities. Browne, community recovery advocate Miriam Keith and part-time administrative assistant Tara Plaugher are the board’s only employees. Additionally, Raney pointed out, the Ohio Revised Code now requires a county hub program to combat opioid addiction.

“That could be a very big job or a minimal job,” Raney said. “The executive director could do it, or we could hire someone.”

Browne said later the requirement does not come with state funding. The law, passed in September, requires the program to be administered by county level alcohol, drug addiction and mental health services, and each board needs to submit a report to the state department of mental health by January 2020, and that department will compile those into a statewide report for the governor and the General Assembly.

The committee will take a staffing plan to the board that would take the 2.5 FTE staff to six full-time people, including an intern, an associate director and a fiscal director.

Browne said until 2010, the board had a staff of five, but with continuing reductions in funding it had dwindled to just him and Keith by the end of 2011. In May of last year, the administrative assistant was hired.

Raney said he would like to take the staffing proposal to a meeting with the Washington County Commission on May 3.

He noted that because the positions are intended to be permanent, they won’t be paid for with money from the levy. He also suggested that the board should re-establish its personnel committee.

The mill rate applied to property values at this point is an estimate, not a firm figure, and Browne said by April or May the board should have a much clearer picture of how much money it will have from the levy over the year.

Other committee business included:

* The project to convert part of the Washington County Home to a residential detox and rehab facility is on track, Browne said. “We’re just waiting for reports on how much it will cost to fix it up and lease it out to Oriana House,” he said.

* The committee will meet next on Jan. 16 from 1 to 3 p.m., and the full board meets at 7 p.m. Jan. 25.