Ottawa County: Mental health board merger approved

Larry Limpf

The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addictive Services has approved plans to dissolve the current structure of the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Erie-Ottawa Counties.
Lori Criss, department director, said that under plans submitted by commissioners of each county, Ottawa County will join the Seneca-Sandusky-Wyandot Mental Health and Recovery Services Board and Erie County will form its own independent board.
She said the OhioMHAS received the request for withdrawal in May from the counties and then began the required legal and financial reviews to ensure full services continue without interruption for residents.
“Our primary goal as we worked through this complex change was to ensure Ohioans served in Erie and Ottawa counties continue to have access to high quality mental health and addiction prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services,” Criss said. “I appreciate the efforts of the Erie and Ottawa county commissioners and local board leaders to thoughtfully develop the needed plans for the operation of an independent board in Erie County and the joining of Ottawa County to the Seneca-Sandusky-Wyandot board. Ohio’s ADAMH county boards are uniquely positioned to understand their communities’ needs, and it was important that this change be locally driven and reflect the voices of consumers and their families and other stakeholders.”
In a prepared statement last week, the Ottawa County commissioners said they were confident the new partnership would provide services for residents in need and “open opportunities for new or improved programs in the future.”
The Erie County commissioners said the separation will “allow for more strategic and targeted services for Erie County.”
The Ottawa County commissioners held a public hearing on May 12 on the proposed move and then passed a resolution seeking state approval to withdraw from the joint board with Erie County.
The resolution notes that Erie County in April had approved its own resolution to withdraw and that Ottawa County, with a population of less than 50,000, was required by state law to join another joint-county district.
Mircea Handru, executive director of the Seneca-Sandusky-Wyandot Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, was one of several mental health professionals to speak at the hearing and he tried to alleviate concerns some residents had about Ottawa County being fairly represented on a board covering four counties.
He said last week that the state budget bill that went into effect July 1 includes provisions allowing boards to expand from 14 to 18 members. Also, county commissioners have the authority to appoint two members to the board.


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