On March 28, 1988, Ohio Governor Richard F. Celeste signed into law Amended Substitute Senate Bill 156, now known as the Mental Health Act of 1988. As Ohio’s most significant piece of mental health legislation in 29 years, the law firmly established the state’s commitment to addressing the mental health needs of Ohioans through a unified system of community-based services. The law more fully defined the roles and responsibilities of the community mental health boards and the Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and updated and revised many areas of mental health law.
OhioMHAS committed substantial amounts of time and resources to support effective implementation of the law beginning July 1, 1989. Training and technical assistance focused on commitment procedures, financing provisions, local system development and preparation for consumers and family members for mental health board membership.
The following gives an overview of some of the more prominent features of the legislation. It does not cover all features of the law and should not be taken as a legal interpretation of its provisions.
Department functions and responsibilities identified in the law include:
Where OhioMHAS is responsible for developing guidelines, standards and rules, it must consult with relevant constituencies, which must include primary and secondary consumers and may include public and private providers, labor and other organizations, when appropriate. OhioMHAS is required to develop rules to specify how it will notify and consult with these groups.
The law set forth the policy that OhioMHAS will provide a full range of services, not only by operating state hospitals, but also by operating other community-based services and may deploy its staff in community settings and locations. OhioMHAS also has a clear role in providing funding for services through the community mental health boards.
OhioMHAS is responsible for developing residency and training programs with hospitals, colleges and universities to meet the public mental health system’s need to professionals, including women, minorities and handicapped people.
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Each board is to establish, to the extent resources are available, the essential elements of a community support system that would locate people in need and inform them about available mental health services; assist clients with meeting basic human needs; provide mental health services; provide emergency services and crisis intervention; assist clients with vocational services and opportunities; develop clients’ social, community and personal living skills; provide access to housing and residential treatment and support; assist families, friends and consumers; recognize and encourage natural support systems; provide grievance procedures and protect client rights and provide case management.
Pursuant to the law, as of July 1, 1989, people who are civilly committed to the public mental health system are committed to a board or its designated agency, rather than to a state hospital. (The only exceptions are people found incompetent to stand trial but likely to be restored, people found not guilty by reason of insanity and commitments from the adult correctional system or Department of Youth Services.) The board must provide services in the least restrictive and most appropriate setting, including both public and private hospital and non-hospital settings.
Additional responsibilities of the boards include establishing assessment methods for people who are involuntarily committed; ensuring that apartment residences for people who are mentally ill meet fire safety standards and that residents are receiving mental health services; establishing involvement of consumers and families; investigating cases of alleged abuse or neglect and taking appropriate action; assessing and evaluating services per OhioMHAS standards and through the community mental health plan and reviewing residential facilities’ applications for licensure.