Voters to decide mental health millage in Jackson County

JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — When voters in Jackson County go to the polls this spring they’ll decide on a millage that deals with mental health.

Tuesday night, the county board of commissioners voted to put the measure on the May ballot.

There’s a gap in funding that’s forcing LifeWays, Jackson County’s community mental health agency, to turn people away.

“We have gone from roughly $5 million to help the uninsured in Jackson to $1.4 million,” said LifeWays CEO Maribeth Leonard.

Leonard says that translates to around 1,400 people with mental health needs they can’t help.

She says the shortfall comes from changes in state funding.

But support could be coming from a millage proposal on the May ballot.

It provides LifeWays with an additional $2 million a year for 10 years.

Taxpayers with a home worth $100,000 dollars would pay an extra $25 a year.

“It would allow us to do a lot of things. Primarily we would be able to serve our mission, which is to be able to provide mental health services for individuals in Jackson County,” Leonard said.

It looks like the community is behind this proposal.

A recent survey found 64 percent of Jackson County residents would support the millage if it was on the ballot.

Over the past four years, they’ve seen an increase in people struggling with depression and anxiety.

Leonard says untreated mental illness can lead to serious problems like unemployment, homelessness, drug abuse, and crime.

She hopes voters will realize this millage impacts the entire county.

“It could be a friend, it could be a family member, it could be yourself. And I think it’s the right thing as a community to make sure we’re able to treat all related to mental health needs,” Leonard said.

The election takes place May 2.

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