Voters will have a chance in the Nov. 2 election to decide on a replacement levy for the Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol Services Board of Logan and Champaign Counties, which funds a wide variety of services in treatment support and community services that are increasingly being utilized as the pandemic continue to weigh on the public, officials said.
If approved, the 0.7 mill, five-year issue would continue funding that has been in place since 1988, MHDAS Executive Director Tammy Nicholl said.
A replacement levy extends the term and conditions of an expiring levy, but unlike renewal levies, it takes the present day property valuations into consideration.
Currently, the 0.7-mill levy generates approximately $600,000 per year. With this replacement issue, the same millage with current property valuations considered would generate an additional $300,000 per year, or a total of $900,000 per year for operations, MHDAS officials said.
The levy’s cost to a $100,000 property owner equates to approximately $11 per year, or about 3 cents a day, Nicholl and Director of Treatment and Recovery Adam Sorensen said.
While the tax rate of 0.7 mills has not increased since it was first passed by voters more than three decades ago, officials emphasized that at the same time, the need for services has increased by 43.5 percent in the last 10 years.
“I think that statistic is very telling,” Sorensen said. “There is a tremendous need, and we’ve able to stretch our dollars in many ways to continue serving as efficiently as possible with the same funding and our small staff. We’ve been able to keep administrative costs below 10 percent of our overall budget, and have found creative ways to utilize grant funding.”
“The need has never been greater than what it is now,” said Nicholl, who has served with the agency for 16 1/2 years, including the past three years in her current role.
As pandemic worries have trickled from 2020 into this year, the executive director said “people who have never struggled before are reaching out, feeling anxiety and tension. It’s like it has ripped off a band-aid.
“It has really heightened the need to be there for our neighbors.”
On the revenue side, the levy represents approximately 39 percent of the MHDAS’ overall funding, while about 30 percent comes from state funding, 17 percent from federal funding and 13 percent from other sources.
“Since the levy makes up nearly 40 percent of our funding, it is an absolutely crucial piece,” Nicholl said.
Administrative expenses accounted for about 9 percent of the agency’s 2020 budget, while 66 percent of last year’s budget was spent on direct services and 26 percent on community support services, officials said.
TCN Behavioral Health Services Inc. is one of the primary contact agencies receiving levy funding. With a continuum of care including mental health, substance abuse treatment, inpatient and outpatient psychiatric services, crisis care and more, TCN served a total of 2,642 clients last year in Logan and Champaign counties, officials related. Of those clients, 41 percent had a dual diagnosis.
Additionally, in both counties, TCN provides a suicide prevention program in all nine school districts supported by levy funding, which educated a total of 1,530 junior high and high school students between the two counties. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 34 in the U.S., the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports.
Nicholl said the MHDAS Board also works closely with the Recovery Zone and Residential Administrators to provide services to county residents. In addition, the agency’s funding provides behind-the-scenes support positions at the hospital, jail and schools.
Other local youth initiatives supported by the board have included summer programming at Union Station and activities at the recently opened Urbana Youth Center.
The board also works in close partnership with the Coalition for Opiate Relief Efforts, Suicide Prevention Coalition of Logan and Champaign Counties and the new faith coalition in both counties. In addition, the agency partners with the Logan County Health District for newborn home visits, where maternal depression screenings are administrated and can point area women to additional counsel where needed.
“We partner with a number of different community organizations,” Nicholl said. “It takes a community to take charge of mental health and recovery support, so that we can paint with a broad brush stroke.”
For more information about the levy and MHDAS services, visit www.mhdas.org.