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Mount Vernon, Knox County, Ohio

Local Government

80 children in custody of Knox Job and Family Services, foster homes needed

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON - The message Matthew Kurtz, director of Knox County Department of Job & Family Services, had for the county commissioners on Thursday is that “We're facing a lot of challenges, but we are facing them in a wide-eyed and efficient manner.”

One of those challenges is the increase in the number of children in the custody of KCDJFS, climbing from 30 or so last year to more than 80 this year.

“Opiates is the popular reason you hear about [for the increase], and that's certainly a contributing factor, but we are also seeing a lot of methamphetamine,” said Scott Boone, social services program administrator for KCDJFS.

Boone said the number of child protection calls received last year is up due to KCJFS encouraging people to call and have situations investigated. The department received 2,346 calls in 2016 and 2,120 in 2015. The number of child investigations increased from 482 in 2015 to 517 in 2016.

The department received 220 adult abuse and neglect calls last year; Boone anticipates that number to increase in the 60-and-older category due to population demographics. The number of adult neglect investigations in 2016 (31) is down from 96 in 2015. Boone attributes the decrease to better filtering and increased information at the screening level.

“Better screening eliminates an investigation and an expectation created when money, or the individual, doesn't allow further followup,” said Kurtz.

The department will receive additional funding from the state for its adult protective services division. “It's valuable work and we are happy to do it, but not as an unfunded mandate,” said Kurtz, who has testified several times before the Ohio Legislature on lack of funding issues. He said his message to the legislature is “If you think it's seriously that big of an issue, follow it with some dollars.”

Boone said he feels good about the way KCDJFS revamped children's services regarding staffing and placement issues. He said that staff members are doing “more thoughtful, diligent assessments now” but noted that this increased thoroughness often reveals more children in unsafe environments. He said that KCJFS has been fortunate to find kinship residences for many of the children, adding that his hope and ambition moving forward is to be more proactive and have families in place should something happen.

He said staff members are doing an analysis of the children placed in care to determine if they are receiving the right level of care. For example, some are placed in Cleveland facilities; staff members are evaluating whether a different type of home closer to the child's community would be better suited.

“We've already uncovered some analysis that makes us believe we can make some restrictions and place children in a lesser environment,” he said. “Now we're working on bringing in more foster homes so that children won't have to be separated from their schools and community.”

The goal is to have 20 to 25 homes available. Six families have responded thus far. “It's early in the movement and we believe we'll get more moving forward,” said Kurtz.

The commissioners presented Kurtz with a proclamation proclaiming April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Zoning change makes way for new business

By Cheryl Splain, KnoxPages.com Reporter

MOUNT VERNON — Monday's City Council meeting was relatively brief, with only a few items on the agenda.

Council passed legislation changing the zoning for 1199 Newark Road from R3 residential to General Business. The Wooster-based Smetzer's Tire Service plans to build and operate a tire sales and service outlet on the 4.49-acre parcel.

The measure passed as an emergency, with council waiving the required three readings. Councilman John Booth noted that council usually does not pass rezoning measures as emergencies. Councilwoman Nancy Vail, chairwoman of the city's Planning and Zoning Committee, said she usually supports three readings for rezoning.

In this case, however, Smetzer's Tire, the administration and the city engineering department requested the fast track so that Smetzer's Tire can put the project out to bid and get construction started and completed in a timely manner. She also noted there has been no opposition to the rezoning, either from residents, the Municipal Planning Commission or public participation at a public hearing on the issue held March 27.

Council also fast-tracked an ordinance setting the wage of the newly hired court security officer at $18 an hour. Mayor Richard Mavis swore in Officer Thomas Brown as an auxiliary police officer on Thursday. A resident of Newark, Brown formerly was part of the court security detail for the Ohio Supreme Court.

Council approved four financial measures authorizing the payment of bills, transfers among accounts, participation in the Ohio Department of Transportation's co-operative purchasing program for road salt, and appropriation of money.

Of the $40,250 in appropriations, $33,000 was transferred among accounts. The remaining $7,250 is from Ariel Corp. for the city's annual fireworks display. The Chinese fireworks manufacturer raised the price, so Ariel Corp. increased its donation from $5,000 to $7,250 to cover the additional cost.

The final two pieces of legislation council dealt with included a second reading on the annexation of 3.249 acres from Clinton Township and emergency passage of an ordinance setting the number and wages of seasonal recreation personnel.

Mavis reminded residents not to throw away correspondence from the city as it contains information about the recent water and wastewater increases. Along with increased rates, the billing cycle will change to monthly.

Law Director Rob Broeren reminded council and the public of the funeral for former Sheriff David Barber on Tuesday. Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Glenn A. Gallagher Centre, 1451 Gambier Road. A service will follow at 7 p.m.

Councilman Sam Barone said that an educational session on home rule, also referred to as charter government, is set for Tuesday, May 16, at 7 p.m. in council chambers. Noting that it has been an interest of his for awhile, Barone said that 75 percent of cities have become home rule cities. Following a meeting last fall among local and political leaders, the consensus was that council and the community should at the least become educated on the issue.

Rep. Carfagna co-sponsors bill to implement Computer Science for students K-12

COLUMBUS - State Representative Rick Carfagna (R) Genoa Township, District 68 (which includes Knox County), has plans to introduce a bill to prepare Ohio students for careers in computer science. 

Carfagna has reached out to school superintendents throughout the district for their input and those conversations have led to making the bill.

In a statement Carfagna said, "We will soon introduce legislation that will allow school districts to implement computer science (CS) in grades K-12. Over the past few years, there has been a national movement and conversation around states implementing K-12 CS standards."

In December, Washington became the sixth state to adopt computer science standards from kindergarten to Grade 12. Having participated in the development of the framework, Washington was able to incorporate ideas from the framework throughout their process. Other states with standards include Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.

Under the bill, the aim is to define “computer science”, charge the State Board of Education to adopt CS standards by working with stakeholders across a number of fields – and make it permissive for school districts to implement these standards. Also, the bill will provide flexibility to students to use CS as an alternative to Algebra II, or to fulfill a math, science, or elective unit as well regardless of the field of certification so long as the teacher has completed professional development determined appropriate by the school board.

The bill also provides teachers with the opportunity to gain professional development (PD) opportunities through the five providers of computer science principles and pedagogical support under College Board.

Lastly, the bill provides for a Technology Grant Program for the 2018-2019 school year. The grants awarded will be used to support CS programs and professional development for those districts in highest need first. The grant can also be used for (1) the delivery of online assessments, (2) wireless connectivity in school buildings, (3) network services, or (4) the purchase of computers and equipment.

To connect with Rep. Carfagna constituents can visit this link and submit an email or call (614)466-1431.

Rep. Carfagna supports bill for timely access to mental health care

COLUMBUS—State Representatives Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township) and Scott Ryan (R-Newark) applauded the Ohio House’s passage of legislation that would allow certain advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to have an individual involuntarily hospitalized for a mental health evaluation in the event of an emergency and if they are a danger to themselves or others. The bill works to provide faster and more efficient care during these mental health emergencies.

House Bill 111 allows an APRN with a psychiatric sub-specialty to have an individual hospitalized if the nurse reasonably suspects that the individual could be a risk to self or others. A mental health professional must perform an evaluation within 24 hours of a patient’s admittance to the care facility, and at the end of this 24-hour period, the individual must be released unless it is recommended following a full mental health exam or a court order that they should be detained.

“I’m extremely grateful to Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and the entire Ohio House membership for their affirmative vote on HB 111 and for understanding the importance of this legislation,” Carfagna said. “I’m eager to see the Ohio Senate take up this bill, and hope they’ll likewise work quickly to empower these highly-trained nurses to intervene in mental health emergencies."

In Ohio, there are approximately 700 APRNs with a psychiatric subspecialty, according to committee testimony. To become qualified, an RN must receive a graduate degree in a nursing specialty or related field. The nurse must then sit for a national certification examination, and obtain a Certificate of Authority from Ohio. This certificate must be reviewed biennially with a continuing education requirement.

This bill passed the House with strong bipartisan support last general assembly when it was sponsored by former State Rep. Margaret Ann Ruhl. However, it did not receive a full Senate vote. Following last week’s House passage, it now returns to the Senate for further consideration.

Rep. Carfagna looks to empower nurses for mental health emergencies

COLUMBUS—State Representatives Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township) and Scott Ryan (R-Newark) recently introduced legislation that would add advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with a psychiatric/mental health subspecialty to the list of authorized professionals who are able to carry out mental health holds. The legislation, House Bill 111, was previously carried by Carfagna’s predecessor, former Rep. Margaret Ann Ruhl, during the 131st General Assembly. With a 98-0 floor vote, it earned strong bipartisan support in the Ohio House but failed to pass out of the Ohio Senate before year end.

If there is evidence that an individual represents a substantial risk of physical harm to self or others, current Ohio law permits psychiatrists, licensed clinical psychologists, licensed physicians, health officers, parole officers, police officers, and sheriffs to have the individual involuntarily transferred to a hospital for a mental health examination. The hold may last for up to 24 hours.

Adding qualified advanced practice registered nurses as authorized professionals in this realm would provide another important resource to ensure more effective and efficient care for those individuals in need. Carfagna estimates there are approximately 400-500 APRNs with this specialty that would be further empowered under this legislation.

“Ohio’s need for greater mental health resources is compounded by the scarcity of medical professionals that can deal with individuals in crisis,” remarked Carfagna. “By utilizing the expertise of this subset of APRNs, we can further help our most vulnerable citizens when time is of the essence.”

House Bill 111 now awaits a committee designation.

Carfagna represents all of Knox County and part of Delaware County in the Ohio legislature, District 68.







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