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Ottawa Co. mental health millage first of its kind in MI | News

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Ottawa Co. mental health millage first of its kind in MI

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) -- There's a new effort to deal with drastic cuts to Ottawa County's mental health department.

Over the past year, dozens of workers have been laid off -- and next year there will be dozens more.

Now, county leaders are proposing the first millage of its kind in Michigan, specifically to help pay for mental health services.

"I think there's a lot of anxiety out there about the future and loss of services," said Lynne Doyle, executive director of Community Mental Health of Ottawa County.

Words like "layoffs" and "budget cuts" have become too common.

"I do have concerns about our loss of funding, that's why we're looking at a millage," said Doyle.

The millage would be strictly for mental health services. Specifically, the 0.3-mill increase equals about $30 a year for a home worth $100,000.

"It would generate about $3.5 million annually," Doyle said. Doyle believes the mental health millage would be the first of its kind in the state. "I don't know that there is another mental health millage in the state of Michigan, there are in other states."

Over the past year, Ottawa County has laid off 35 workers, with another 30 expected to be cut next year.

The county also cut funding to the organization, Kandu, which then closed its doors. It provided employment for hundreds of people with mental or physical disabilities, like Brian Dreyer. WZZM 13 spoke to Dreyer in August, who described being discouraged and depressed.

"All of our planning for the future included Kandu, so for the folks who worked there, both consumers and the staff, it was a very big loss," said Doyle.

The $2-million budget shortfall is due to a new formula for distributing state Medicaid dollars among local counties. Thus, the idea for a new millage.

"We're looking at pretty significant funding reductions over the next couple years, and so this would certainly help to lessen that impact," said Doyle.

The millage proposal would not be on the ballot until March. County administrators still need approval from the county board of commissioners.