Wednesday, May 22, 2019 Medina 71°
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Unraveling decades of the Medina County Drug Abuse Commission's incorrect funding

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MEDINA — County officials are working to untangle the knotted situation they have found themselves in with the Medina County Drug Abuse Commission, which has been improperly funding several agencies in the county for more than 30 years.

Doing this includes recommendations to change how funded agencies spend commission proceeds and maybe even changing the name of the agency, also known as the MCDAC.

County commissioners stopped short of doing the latter Tuesday, tabling a name-change motion at the last minute when Commissioner Pat Geissman objected to modifying the moniker.

Geissman wants to keep the original name. Alternatives include the Medina County Drug Enforcement Commission, Medina County Drug Abuse Commission-LE (for law enforcement) and the Medina County Law Enforcement Commission.

Including phrasing that highlights the enforcement efforts of the agency speaks to the recently discovered funding issue that could jeopardize how drug education and treatment efforts are funded going forward.

For 32 years, MCDAC has been improperly funding several agencies throughout the county.

Commissioners and the drug abuse commission recently learned the education and treatment components of the current funding model are inappropriate expenditures under the original levy passed in 1987 by Medina County voters.

The original levy was adopted under Ohio Revised Code 5705.19 (J), which focuses on police department, law enforcement operations and services. Since the levy passed, commissioners and MCDAC have been allocating funds based on original ballot language that included law enforcement, education and treatment.

MCDAC was paying county school districts about $400,000 a year.

Most districts used the funding to pay for “prevention specialists.”

County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson said one “legitimate expense” for the school districts is funding school resource officers,

County Administrator Scott Miller said the specialists were used for teaching, guidance and counseling about the dangers of drugs.

“That’s not part of the mission,” he said.

Miller proposed the schools pay their resource officers with the money MCDAC sends to them, and find an alternative method to fund the specialists.

MCDAC sends $110,000 annually to the Medina County Sheriff’s Office, which it uses to pay for SROs in the Buckeye, Cloverleaf and Highland school districts.

“That’s a legitimate use of the funds,” Thompson said.

Wadsworth had a quid pro quo arrangement with Wadsworth police for its officers.

Medina, Brunswick and Brunswick Hills police officers are stationed at Medina and Brunswick high schools and paid by their respective police departments.

Thompson isn’t sure what to do in Black River.

It might be difficult to put a Medina County deputy at Black River High School, since it’s technically located in Ashland County.

Commissioner Bill Hutson wondered if it’s allowable to use Medina County levy money in Ashland County. Thompson said a call to the state auditor’s might be in order to answer the question.

D.A.R.E. officers can also be funded by MCDAC.

“We’re not going to know the cost of the SROs until we get the grant applications (from the schools in May),” Thompson said.

Other changes commissioners could make to ensure proper funding is to reduce the millage on the MCDAC levy and move to fund the Medina County Drug Task Force.

“There’s nothing that prevents the commissioners from saying with the revamped MCDAC as it now stands, we could reduce the tax millage to conform to what we need to fit the new model,” Thompson said.

The drug task force was provided $754,936 during the 2018-19 fiscal year, roughly half of the $1.5 million generated from the anti-drug levy.

That won’t be touched.

MCDAC used about $700,000 for treatment and education, which can no longer be funded.

Agencies like Ohio Guidestone ($25,000), Cathy’s House ($31,000), The LCADA Way Medina Wellness Center ($27,500), Community Assessment and Treatment Services ($25,000) and the Recovery Center of Medina County ($12,500) could be left out in the cold.

“Somebody has to come forward to find funding for these agencies funded through MCDAC,” Thompson said. “I certainly don’t want to see them go dark.”

Commissioners have yet to find a way to pay those agencies in the last quarter of the fiscal year or to find funding in the future.

Will Koran, chairman of the MCDAC board, said he has pored over all the budgets.

He’s hoping the ADAMH board will be able to fund the agencies, at least in the fourth quarter.

Koran said the “administrative oversight” has been going on for more than three decades. In all, the board has handed out more than $30 million in funding over the years.

“No one did anything on purpose,” he said. “It was all spent in earnest. We used it on some excellent programming. A lot of people benefited from it.”

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.


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