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Johnson County Poised To Expand Mental Health Services

Aviva Okeson-Haberman
KCUR 89.3

Johnson County’s proposed $1.1 billion budget for 2019 includes a $3 million increase in spending on mental health services.

The money would fund six additional workers at the Johnson County Mental Health Center, including three new case managers who would work with both children and adults.

At a hearing Monday night, the only public input consisted of two suggestions to further lower the tax rate. The board is already planning to lower the mill levy rate in 2019 because property values have increased.

Johnson County Mental Health Center Director Tim DeWeese said the increase in funding for mental health sends a message.

“There’s still absolutely more that needs to be done, but we also have to work within the frameworks that we’re given,” DeWeese said. “But to consider that in 2019 that the board of county commissioners made a decision to have a rollback in taxes and for us to still get new positions added, I think that’s a clear commitment to community mental health.”

DeWeese said there’s a need to focus on preventive services that address mental health concerns early on by teaching children resilience and coping skills. But DeWeese said hiring case managers was important because only half the people eligible for mental health services in Johnson County receive them.

“Every indication is — whether it’s in our schools, whether it’s in the broader community — that demand for mental health services continues to grow,” Johnson County Commission Chairman Ed Eilert said.

The budget also includes about $335,000 for a task force to address narcotics, violent crime, gang activity and theft. The money would fund four new full-time staff members, according to Sheriff Calvin Hayden.

Commissioners will vote on the budget on Aug. 9.

Aviva Okeson-Haberman is a KCUR news intern. Follow her on Twitter @avivaokeson.

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