NEOCH Endorses Health and Human Services Levy

The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Board of Trustees debated the merits of the replacement human services levy on the November ballot and decided to support Issue 1.  For those who do not know, the County has placed a replacement levy on the ballot for November 5 to support Health and Human Services locally.  This is the first time there will be a vote in an odd year when there are typically only local municipal issues on the ballot.  This became necessary because of huge cuts in the last two budgets from the State of Ohio to local governments and the hostility toward expanding Medicaid to serve our population.  

This levy will replace the levy that was set to expire at the end of 2014, and will increase the property taxes for residents.  This is repugnant that homeowners in Ohio must continually increase their own local taxes to pay for schools and human services because state leaders have abandoned their responsibilities.   The State of Ohio does not help with funding the shelters taking a back seat to the local and federal governments.  They continue to reduce support for alcohol and drug services.  They do not adequately support public transportation.  They have never brought justice to the funding of public schools and now are supporting a failing charter school system.   The state does very little to assist with the affordable housing crisis and did nearly nothing when faced with a quadrupling of foreclosures in the State.   They have not stepped forward to provide health care to every citizen in Ohio and only care about lowering taxes.  They seem feckless in the face of job stagnation, growing family homelessness, and a mental health crisis.  In an environment in which they close their eyes at the state level to everything but lowering taxes, it destabilizes the local community.  We are forced to continue to find revenue sources for these services that should be covered by the State of Ohio.

We urge a yes vote on Issue 1 and urge State legislators to take responsibility for some of these issues such as poverty, universal health care (including behavioral health), school funding, and expanding affordable housing.   With nearly one third of the poor people in Ohio living in Cuyahoga County, we cannot solve these big issues alone.  We need Medina, Geauga, Hamilton and Butler county resources to stabilize the housing situation, expand job opportunities with large scale infrastructure projects, universal access to pre-k school, and real preventative behavioral health care.  Without a state government willing to role up their sleeves and solve problems, we are stuck trying to cobble together levies and tax schemes to keep what we have going.  We do not want to shut down the shelters next year (already with federal cut backs, we will not be able to fund two projects).  We do not want to reduce access to detox or street outreach for the mentally ill. We do not want more addicts ending up in jail or more women seeking shelter in the house of a serial killer.   NEOCH urges a yes vote on Issue 1 the expanded Health and Human Services Levy to keep our current safety net. 

Brian Davis

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Medicaid Expansion in Ohio

Congratulations to Ohio Governor John Kasich for accepting  the millions in federal dollars that come with the expansion of Medicaid in 2014.  The homeless of Ohio appreciate that they will have an easier time receiving life sustaining health care.  The savings that our local hospitals save with federal reimbursements can go to expand mental health care and dental assistance.  Right now almost 90% of the homeless population are not eligible for health care insurance.   In the near future, all the programs in Cleveland that serve the lowest income will be able to move some of their clients onto Medicaid.  This will allow them to use local funds to expand safety net services such as Alcohol and Drug treatment, eyecare, dental care, or mental health services depending on priorities. 

This expansion in Ohio will lead to a healthier state and a work force that is ready to work.  It will improve the environment for job creation to be prepared to compete with other states.  It will not put as at a disadvantage compared to states that already cover the majority of their population such as Massachusetts and the dozens of states which will also expand coverage in the next few years.  This coupled with the focus on preventative healthcare in the law will reduce the chances that lower income people will be bankrupted by healthcare expenses that spirals out of control and often leads families to the shelters.  The local Alcohol and Mental Health Board estimates that 80,000 residents of Cuyahoga County will find insurance because of this expansion and 600,000 Ohioans. 

We will continue to monitor and keep people updated on the impact of these decisions on the local level. 

Brian Davis

Opinions reflect the individuals who sign the entry.

One Step Closer to Health Coverage for Homeless People

A big victory for the uninsured in America today, and a big victory for homeless people.  Our own healthcare for the homeless in Cleveland, Care Alliance, serves nearly 10,000 people per year.  88% of their clients do not have any insurance, 9% have regular medicaid, and 2% have Medicare with only 1% having private health insurance.  Today the United States Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate, which will allow thousands of homeless people in Cleveland to find a health care home in America. There will be thousands currently living in subsidized housing who will now have access to affordable health care.  This is great news.  Most in the anti-poverty movement would like to see universal single payer coverage like almost every other industrialized country in the world, but we can settle for a step closer to health care justice. 

What this means for the homeless community is that agencies such as Care Alliance, the Neighborhood Clinics will have more people covered by some form of insurance.  So, while 88% of Care Alliance's clients are not covered by insurance today, that could go down to 68% in 2014.  This would free up resources for the local agencies to provide more mental health services or alcohol and drug treatment or dental care.  Both behavioral health and dental care are huge gaps in services in our community.  Any additional dollars that these health care agencies can find reimbursement for will allow other local, state and federal dollars to fill in some of the holes in health care coverage.  The men who have diabetes or other chronic health conditions should be able to find help so they are not bankrupted by hospital bills.   Those who need medicine every day should be able to find a doctor to help.  Preventative care will be more accessible in our community.  States will be required to set up a health care exchange so that people will be able to buy affordable health care.  Most states have waited until the Supreme Court decided the case before setting up the health exchanges. 

It is a great day in the United States.

Brian Davis