Ohio Governor John Kasich is four months into the final year of his last term as the state’s executive officer. On Friday, he signed a number of bills, one of which was a biennial capital appropriations bill that will pay for $2.62 billion in improvements around Ohio.
A portion of that money — more than $100 million — will be used to build a new state hospital to replace the Twin Valley Behavioral Health Hospital in Columbus.
Tracy Plouck, the director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, was hopeful to receive the funding, but was surprised it was added to the budget bill nonetheless.
Plouck recalled the moment when she was told of its inclusion in the bill. She was in a meeting at the hospital at the time and stepped outside to take the phone call.
“I looked up, there was a bald eagle that flew over the field where the hospital’s going to be created and I thought, ‘I am experiencing a miracle right now,’” she said.
She went on to thank the governor and the legislature for their work toward funding her department, both in the capital appropriations bill and in the past.
Mental health issues and the treatment for them have been on the governor’s mind recently. Kasich mentioned the importance of addressing the matter in his State of the State and again on Friday.
He also brought up the Medicaid expansion program and how it has helped hundreds of thousands of Ohioans.
“At some point, I will be gone and it will be very easy to cut the programs that help people who need help. Don’t let it happen, folks because you won’t have the services — for mental health, for drug addiction, to help the uninsured,” Kasich said.
According to her campaign website, Republican gubernatorial candidate Lt. Governor Mary Taylor is planning to end the Medicaid expansion program in Ohio.
Her primary opponent, Attorney General Mike DeWine, does not have an official stance on his website, but his campaign has shown support for the idea of adding work requirements.
None of the Democrats running for governor have any interest in ending the program.
Senate President Larry Obhof responded to Kasich’s plea to protect the program by explaining how lawmakers tried to freeze enrollment with some exceptions in the operating budget for the current general assembly.
“My anticipation is that in the next state budget with whoever the new governor is, we will be having that discussion again,” Obhof said.