RAVENNA -- A day after county commissioners called for a meeting to discuss the future of the Portage County Jail expansion, the county sales and use tax committee met to discuss substance abuse prevention and education proposals submitted for review.
The sales and use tax subcommittee received proposals from six organizations, each vying for an expected $5 million in funds generated by a five-year, one-quarter percent tax imposed in 2015. More than $12 million is expected to be used to fund a new pod at the jail.
Revenues from the tax enhance the county's general fund and do not have a designated legislative purpose. However, commissioners said at past public hearings that the revenue would be used for expanding the jail, as well as funding substance abuse prevention or treatment programs.
The committee, including chairman Joel Mowrey, executive director of the Portage County Mental Health & Recovery Board, decided the proposals each contained merit but more information was needed.
Important to the committee was that most all of the proposals were to expand existing programs. However, the question became whether or not those programs are working.
"Do we want to put this money just to enhance all of these programs that have been affective all these years, or do we want to look at something new? Because although we may feel it's doing an adequate job, maybe it's not doing the best job?" said Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala
Organizations that submitted proposals were: Family & Community Services for peer supporters and at least two new residential rehabilitation houses in Ravenna; the Adult Probation Department for SCRAM ankle monitoring devices and the HOPE Drug Court; University Hospital Portage Medical Center to increase funding for the Medical Support Program as well as to help build a network of peer recovery coaches.
Also, 13 Messages from Milo for presentations by motivational speaker Chris Milo; Townhall II for expanding existing programs like Too Good for Drugs and Life Skills, implement a summer program, and build a network of peer supporters; and the the Portage School Districts, a coalition of all 12 districts in the county aimed at drug use in the education system.
Several of the proposals contained related treatment and prevention programs, each administered by a common set of county agencies like Townhall II and Children's Advantage.
Mowrey said the school district proposal is most in line with the intent of the committee, though others noted that drug prevention programs in the schools have been ongoing for years. Committee members agreed to take a more in-depth look at each of the proposals before next month's meeting.
Mowrey, who also works with Townhall II, Coleman Professional Services and Children's Advantage, agreed to coordinate some of the proposals to possibly combine ideas into one feasible program.
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