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Hello Advocate,

Can you take five minutes right now to email or call and send a message to Statehouse leaders? They need to hear that $37 million -- or 20 percent of the $187 million 2011 surplus -- needs to be set aside for health, human service, and early care & education programs. This is our last week to advocate for more resources to avoid serious consequences for vulnerable Ohioans.

Last week, Advocates for Ohio's Future held an event with our partners in Cleveland. We heard from six consumers who shared powerful stories about their experience with a range of services.

Sakeenah Francis shared her story as a consumer of mental health services. Sakeenah was able to remain employed and productive despite her mental illness because of a community-based program that gave her access to rent subsidies, outpatient psychiatrist visits, counseling, a caseworker, medication, and transportation assistance. The program recently lost its funding, and Sakeenah worried about ending up in a crisis shelter.

Watch Sakeenah tell her story on YouTube.

Policy makers have a chance to invest in services for people like Sakeenah, so that they can be healthy and contributing members of their community. Otherwise, people with mental illness may end up in psychiatric wards, prisons, and nursing homes -- costing the state more in the long run. Will you help us share the stories of real people, like Sakeenah's, and raise the voice of struggling Ohioans?

It only takes five minutes to call or email state leaders. Tell them:

We know that policy changes (including the “Pill Mill” Bill and sentencing reforms) will result in even more Ohioans needing community-based behavioral health services, not less. If we can provide a secure infrastructure of community-based services, we can treat these needs at a lower cost and intervene before situations turn critical. If we don't shore up our community-based system, then people will be driven into more expensive emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals, and jails.

Proposed state budget cuts to emergency food assistance, behavioral health, long-term care, early care & education, developmental disabilities, and child welfare will have real-life consequences for vulnerable Ohioans, particularly for the nearly 1 in 3 Ohioans who live at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Economic projections for the next two years suggest that life won't be getting any easier for those who have been struggling because of unemployment, wage stagnation, and high fuel and food prices. Please set aside $37 million (which is 20 percent of this year's surplus) to support critical programs for children, families, seniors, and people with disabilities in Ohio.

Even if you can make only one or two phone calls each day this week, you will be making a difference.

Thank you for taking time to advocate during this last push for a budget that gives our neighbors, friends, and family a lifeline through these tough times. Please forward this message to human service supporters in your network or community!

To stay on our mailing list but opt out of daily messages during the Conference Committee debate, just click here.

Gayle Channing Tenenbaum, Co-Chair

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