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Jul 1, 2013 6:33 PM by Associated Press

Ohio to grant $3 million to at-risk youth services

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio will direct $3 million in federal funds this year to community projects aimed at helping young people at risk of harming themselves or others because of a mental illness or developmental disability, state officials said Monday.

The grants will support crisis intervention, family mentoring and screening programs along with other services in 20 counties. The efforts target people ages 8 to 24 who may have a history of aggressive or violent behavior in the classroom or at home.

John Martin, director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, said the state receives calls about how to handle such incidents. He said, all but a few areas of the state applied for the grant money.

"That also told us there's significant need out there in our local communities for something like this," Martin said.

The grants come amid increased focus on mental health issues following last year's mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.

Martin said his agency heard a number of responses from people saying they have served someone who struggled in similar ways.

"It kind of heightened awareness and I think caused all of us to look at our systems and say, are we doing the best that we can, are we doing as much as we can to help families who are struggling with some of these issues?" he said.

Tracy Plouck, director of the state's Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said none of the shooting events was a catalyst for the grants, but they were a part of discussions indirectly.

"You're never going to be able to prevent all tragic situations," she said. "But I think that to the extent that we have community resources that could help diffuse circumstances, crisis situations before they occur, you know, that's certainly helpful to all of Ohio."

Some of the money helps develop partnerships, or "rapid response teams," across counties to help families after hours and during the weekends should a crisis occur. In some cases, the teams might include local law enforcement, mental health and developmental disability boards, and juvenile probation officers and social services.

Officials offered an example scenario of an older teen who is being raised by a grandparent. The teen's behavior escalates, perhaps because a medication dosage should be changed. And he assaults the grandparent, who goes to the hospital.

"That youth then is in need of some immediate support and some intervention," Plouck said.

She said the partnerships would then step in to help find a place for the teen to stay, put together a plan to review his medications and provide the services needed to reintegrate him back into the household.

One project in Hamilton County would create 24-hour crisis services, while one in southeastern Ohio would set up temporary care for young people in situations where they may need to be removed from a home.

Officials said Monday that they hope to build off the use of the one-time money to find ways of stabilizing young people who are struggling with mental illness or developmental disabilities.

The state is using $250,000 in federal money this fall to train child welfare workers, school employees and others in first aid and trauma-related approaches. And next year, an additional $1.5 million in federal funds will be used to continue the project or possibly go toward other proposals.

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