Many thanks to Mark Mecum of OACCA and Angela and Nick from YEP for drafting this letter on behalf of Ohio's statewide Ready to Launch Coalition advocating for the needs of transition-age youth:
Honorable Ted Strickland
Honorable Armond Budish
Honorable Bill Harris
Re: State Funding for Transitional Youth
Dear Governor Strickland, Speaker Budish, and President Harris:
The Ready to Launch initiative urges your support for continued funding for services provided to at-risk youth in Ohio who are transitioning into adulthood. We are comprised of service providers, advocates, and transition-age youth. In the FY 2010 and 2011 budget bill, several important programs that serve these transition-age youth are proposed to be eliminated or significantly reduced. The cost-cutting measures will have a severe effect on Ohio’s most vulnerable citizens: children and youth.
The Independent Living Initiative is the only state program that provides transitional living services to foster care youth. The budget bill completely eliminates its funding. It is funded by a TANF earmark, administered by ODJFS, and implemented by county children services departments. Funds are used to provide drivers’ education, life skills training, job readiness training, and food and housing assistance.
Housing is a key aspect of this program, as it provides shelter for homeless youth and those at-risk for becoming homeless. According to feedback from the Ohio Summit on Children, a top challenge faced by counties is lack of funding for transitional services for older youth in care. Eliminating this program will further exacerbate this challenge. We urge you to restore funding to FY 2009 levels or establish a new, non-earmark program to replace it.
The Mental Health Systems of Care is the primary state funding source for community mental health programs that serve children and youth. The program is administered by ODMH and implemented by county mental health boards. Funds are used to serve children, youth, and adults with serious mental health disorders by providing medication, assessment, counseling, crisis intervention, community psychiatric supportive treatment, and day treatment services. If GRF funding of this program is not increased to comparative levels from FY 2008-2009, many youth will go without crucial mental health services, which will be a serious impediment to success as young adults.
Lastly, the Ohio Housing Trust Fund is a funding source that provides housing and homeless services to vulnerable Ohioans. The fund, in past years, has exceeded its cap at $50 million. If the General Assembly lifts this cap in the budget bill, it will permit funds collected for housing services to go toward housing services.
We also support expansion of the Housing Trust Fund eligibility to Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs, which adds youth homeless shelters as eligible funded agencies. As the need to provide emergency housing to youth rises, we must ensure that effective programs receive necessary funding to meet the rising need.
We are privileged to work, serve, and advocate for Ohio youth. But without necessary funding, the youth will not receive the services that they need to succeed. We welcome the opportunity to work with you to develop a plan to ensure that the needs of Ohio’s transition-age youth are met.