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Ohio hasn't used $5M allocated for at-risk youth

Posted at 8:38 AM, Jul 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-02 08:38:48-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio has yet to spend any of the $5 million allocated this year for services for troubled youth on the cusp of being removed from their homes or at risk of entering the justice or foster-care systems.

Money from the "crisis stabilization fund" was designated to help pay for support groups, child care, transportation and other expenses, reported The Columbus Dispatch. County Family and Children First councils were given the task of making local plans to administer the funds.

Stipulations attached to the federally funded program have caused roadblocks, according to child welfare advocates.

Residential treatment and clinical services aren't covered by the program. Funding is also only available to families with annual incomes at or below 200 percent of poverty.

Republican state Rep. Sarah LaTourette, of Chesterland, continues to urge state officials to adjust the program to better serve residents.

LaTourette and Republican state Sen. Randy Gardner, of Bowling Green, sent Gov. John Kasich a letter in April saying they had intended that the program help middle-class families in addition to those living under the poverty line.

"The costs to families raising these highly challenged youth are often extreme and can be devastating to families with income well above the poverty level," they wrote.

The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services took months to work out the "logistics" of the program, according to director Tracy Plouck. "I believe that people are interested. We just haven't flowed any dollars yet," Plouck said.

LaTourette acknowledged the challenges the program faced, but insisted it shouldn't take a year.

Child advocates who fought to get the program had told legislators that too many parents had been making the awful choice to relinquish custody in order to get care for their troubled kids.

Mark Butler once had to relinquish his parental rights to receive behavioral-health care for his son, who is autistic. His son moved into a residential treatment center in 2016.

"It's just very alarming that all this hard work we put in doesn't seem to be making a difference in the lives of Ohio families," Butler said.