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Monday, July 2, 2018

Ohio Hasn't Touched the $5 Million Allocated to Help At-Risk Youth

Posted By on Mon, Jul 2, 2018 at 11:47 AM

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We're seven months into 2018 and Ohio has yet to use the $5 million allocated this year to help youth on the cusp of removal from their homes or at risk of entering the justice or foster-care systems.

Around a year ago, the Crisis Stabilization Fund was designated to help families pay for support groups, child care, transportation and other expenses required to provide children with a safe home environment.

The goal was to ensure parents could keep custody of their children struggling with a variety of issues, including severe mental or physical disabilities in addition to behavioral crises. The fund is part of the current 2018-19 biennial budget, and $5 million was set aside in each of the two years.

As first reported by The Columbus Dispatch, County Family and Children First councils were to design local plans for administering the fund, which is supposed to assist so-called “multisystem youths” — those on the cusp of being removed from their homes because of dangerous behavioral and emotional problems.

“It took us a number of months to work through the logistics of the type of expectations of how these dollars could be used,” Tracy Plouck, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services told the Dispatch. “I believe that people are interested. We just haven’t flowed any dollars yet.”

Unfortunately, the logistics of that money comes with significant red tape, as it is drawn from a pool of federal welfare funding, namely, the unspent dollars from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

State officials say the funds are not allowed to be used toward the cost of residential treatment or clinical services, and funds are only available to families with annual incomes at or below 200 percent of poverty which is about $50,200 for a four-person household.

Child advocates say program stipulations have tied up funds and need to change.

The reality is that even having Medicaid or private health insurance is frequently not enough to cover the services needed for a child to get the help they desperately need. Families are then left with the option to either drown in debt, or forego custody of their child in order for them to receive treatment.

Numbers of children entering the Ohio foster care system are at an all time high due to the opioid crisis. Knowing that there is $5 million sitting around untouched is disheartening, especially when the kids that would benefit from those funds' entry into the system could be completely preventable. 

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