Genesee Health System CEO responds to reader’s comments

On behalf of the Genesee Health System (GHS), I would like to address questions raised by one of your readers regarding the Community Mental Health millage request on the May 4 ballot.

The millage request will provide unrestricted funds to GHS to offer programs all over Genesee County in the areas of crisis intervention, social work in the public schools, and embedded mental health experts with our law enforcement officers.

On a broader scale, the GHS Community Mental Health Millage will provide money to meet the community’s behavioral health needs in flexible ways that our current funding cannot. The millage will provide funds for 10 years, allowing GHS to establish programs and grow their effectiveness for the community.

Grant money has limitations such as being a one-time grant of funds or designated only for specific purposes. While Genesee Community Health Center focuses on physical health care or family medical services, Genesee Health System is the Community Mental Health Authority for Genesee County.

These services are part of a whole focus on the health of individuals, but the budgets and programs are separate. Under the American Rescue Plan enacted in March, GHS received a one-time grant designated to the health center in the amount of $1,120,250 for a two-year period, specifically for COVID-19 costs like testing, contact tracing, and vaccinations. This money cannot be used for any of the services targeted by the millage.

For more about the American Rescue Plan, see rb.gy/a2ww3p.

Like the stimulus checks sent to individual citizens, this money is a short-term solution to meet the needs the pandemic created. However, funds from the mental health millage will provide a steady income over 10 years allowing GHS to meet the mental health needs of the community – needs that existed before the pandemic.

The language on the ballot specifying all local tax jurisdictions is required by law. Local municipalities have the option of establishing specific geographic areas where a portion of the property taxes will be “captured” for specific economic development purposes.

These are known as “Tax Increment Financing” (TIF) districts, or Downtown Development Authorities (DDA). These expenditures of public money are spelled out in their approved economic development plan and approved by the local municipality. Because of these previously existing tax agreements, the millage revenue will share approximately $300,000 (3 percent of the total) each year to the TIFs out of the projected $9.5M raised by the millage for GHS programs.

These TIF districts can also opt-out of their capture and leave the money with GHS. If the past 14 months have taught us anything, it’s there is a lot of work to do to ensure the most vulnerable of us have the care they need – both physical and mental. This millage takes important steps toward addressing the inequities in our community that cost us more than dollars.

GHS is here to provide hope and health in the community. Details: Visit www.geneseethefuture.org. If there are more specific questions, my email is drussell@genhs.org. — Dan Russell, CEO of the Genesee Health System