YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A local organization has an issue on the ballot that would fund mental health services that its director says are much in need now.
Issue 3 would provide funding for the Mahoning County Mental Health & Recovery Board. This is a renewal of a levy that was last passed in 2018 before a rise in mental health issues during the pandemic.
“People are feeling stress now that they haven’t felt in the past,” said Duane Piccirilli, executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Board.
Addressing mental health issues has become important, he says. The suicide rate in Mahoning County is higher than last year, and it’s mostly middle-aged men.
Those on the board believe it has something to do with stress and the pandemic, so the organization started a campaign to tell men about available help.
“These are some issues that we can use levy dollars for… campaigns to get people, make people aware of the services that we provide,” Piccirilli said.
One in four people — over 56,000 Mahoning County residents — suffer from a treatable mental health condition. The board provides funding for groups that help families and adults with depression, addictions or who are in crisis.
One of the biggest changes has come from social media, where children are being bullied.
“[Back] in the day, you go home, you’d be safe. You’re not safe. You go home now, kids are still bullied. So we’re doing a lot of programs in the schools for bullying,” Piccirilli said.
All Mahoning County police departments have at least one officer trained by the Mental Health & Recovery Board.
The levy provides $5.7 million a year, which fills the gaps because the $6 million it receives in state and federal funds sometimes has to be used for specific groups or services.
“But these dollars are so important to the community because mental illness is touching almost everyone,” Piccirilli said.
The funds help things like the Sojourner House’s domestic violence program, a suicide crisis hotline and depression screening in schools.