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DeWine Highlights mental health initiatives during Greater Cincinnati stop

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Lori Criss and Ohio Recovery Director Aimee Shadwick at a news conference Feb. 1 2023.
Nick Swartsell
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Lori Criss and Ohio Recovery Director Aimee Shadwick at a news conference Feb. 1 2023.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was in Greater Cincinnati Wednesday to talk about mental health funding in the state budget. He highlighted funding for a federal mental health crisis line, but also stressed the mental health care system in Ohio needs more focus on prevention and recovery initiatives.

DeWine said the current system doesn't do enough to help people avoid mental health issues in the first place, or to get help before mental illness reaches a crisis situation. He said his proposed budget — now in the hands of state lawmakers — includes millions in mental health funding for schools and for local initiatives.

RELATED: Gov. DeWine focuses on children, mental health in State of the State address

"When you're dealing with a mental health problem, it should, in some respects, be treated like any other health problem," DeWine said. "But that's not where our society has been; it's not where our culture has been."

Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Lori Criss said the focus needs to be on prevention, research and treatment — something she said DeWine's budget takes into account.

"Mental health and addiction are physical health conditions," she said. "They're biological experiences that people are having. They're also a psychological and social experience a person has. But they are health and they are health care. So that's really the foundation that we're building this budget on."

While in the region, DeWine toured Child Focus, a nonprofit working to include a 988 lifeline center. While there, he spoke to local operators who have been taking calls at the 988 number the federal government created last July. He recounted that some of those calls were simply from people looking to get more information, while others were much more urgent from people contemplating or even in the process of committing suicide.

RELATED: New 988 suicide prevention hotline launches

The governor announced he's included $46.5 million in his proposed budget for the federal 988 mental health crisis line. He says it's important the people answering calls for assistance are local mental health care workers. DeWine said more than 10,000 Ohioans have called the number since it has been active here.

"I think it's a very positive thing for the community to know that this number is here; it's going to go to somebody who is local and who has been trained to help," he said.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener, call 988.

Nick has reported from a nuclear waste facility in the deserts of New Mexico, the White House press pool, a canoe on the Mill Creek, and even his desk one time.