Measure makes appropriations more equitable through state
A bill sponsored by state Rep. Aaron Miller to more equally appropriate funds for county mental health services today received the support of four St. Joseph County Community Mental Health officials before the House Committee on Appropriations.
House Bill 5118 changes the way the state calculates its contribution for services provided by Community Mental Health Service Programs, basing the funds on county demographics, unemployment rates and poverty rates, said Rep. Miller, R-Sturgis.
“The current formula for funding is based on a historical model that is about 50 years old, and it is not fair,” Rep. Miller said. “Imagine the funding as a see-saw, and someone is always at the bottom of the see-saw getting a small amount of money, while others are at the top receiving a surplus of funds. That is how the present system works, and it is not fair and it is not right.
“Cass and St. Joseph counties are just two of the many CMH authorities that are at the bottom of the see-saw, and that has to change,” Rep. Miller said.
Testifying in support of the measure was Elizabeth O’Dell, chief executive officer of Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services of St. Joseph County. She testified in detail regarding the state funds her facility receives, saying it is far less than other counties while the challenges St. Joseph County faces sometimes exceed those in areas that get higher funding.
Rep. Miller told the committee that he received a call from a family in Sturgis who said the local CMH could not treat their adult daughter because it did not have the funding. He then called O’Dell, who confirmed there was a budget shortfall. That opened the discussion and resulted in Rep. Miller’s bill.
“I told the family they could move to a different part of the state where funding was available, but that’s not right either,” Rep. Miller said. “This has been 50 years in the making and it is definitely a problem.”
The committee took the issue under consideration.