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Health & Science

Advocates Call for State Senate to Restore Mental Health Funding in Budget

a photo of Wesley Walker
Wesley Walker speaks about his experience with mental illness at a press conference featuring advocates for mental health and suicide prevention organizations.

Advocates are calling on state senators to restore $36 million in funding for mental health and suicide prevention before they pass the budget next week.

That's money that was in the House budget but is not in the Senate version. They’re pointing to state stats that show almost five Ohioans a day are lost to suicide.

“Cutting the budget is like denying antibiotics after an infection.”

That’s Wesley Walker, who attempted suicide seven years ago by jumping off a parking garage after years of untreated mental illness. The Senate’s budget removes $18 million for mental health treatment and prevention for children and up to $18 million for anti-stigma and prevention campaigns. Sandy Linehan’s son Russell died by suicide in 2012 when he was 23.

“So many people think, oh, it’s the other guy, or I know somebody, a neighbor whose cousin had issues. No, there’s a lot more people – 1 out of 5.”    

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 1 in 5, or nearly 47 million people, experience mental illness each year. The Centers for Disease Control says Ohio’s suicide rate soared 36 percent from 1999 to 2016.