MANSFIELD -- Richland County commissioners on Tuesday afternoon unanimously approved spending $94,986.92 in CARES Act funds to boost technology for Richland County Mental Health & Recovery Services.
The approval means improved services for local mental health agencies, many of which were ill-equipped to provide quality tele-services when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Ohio back in March, according to MH&RS Executive Director Joe Trolian.
"Compound that with decreases in revenue with people not wanting to come in for service and agencies had few options to increase their technical resources," Trolian told commissioners in his proposal.
"Agencies did a great job of making do with what they had on hand and were able to get by," he said. "However, some of the equipment provides limited visual interaction through poor built-in camera services and outdated computers.
"We are also now facing a need to provide hybrid services -- groups where some participants may be on site while others are online. A laptop is not adequate to provide full room coverage."
The plan will assist Catalyst Life Services, Community Action for Capable Youth, Family Life Counseling, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mansfield UMADAOP, Healing Hearts Counseling Center and Abraxas Ohio.
Trolian said all of these agencies provide services to the community in an outpatient or community setting significantly affected by COVID-19.
The funds will purchase laptops, conference cameras, flat-screen monitors, and other technology, according to Trolian.
The executive director also said the plan will upgrade the large conference room at MH&RS, which will allow for more interactivity for groups using the facility, including behavioral health professionals needing an opportunity to continuing education credits.
"Due to spacing issues and group size limits, we have not been able to provide the trainings as we would like," Trolian said.
He said all equipment could be purchased, distributed and installed by the Dec. 30 deadline for COVID-19 relief funds. The laptops, etc., would remain the property of the mental health board.
With the approval, commissioners still have $261,491 to allocate from the $7.4 million in CARES Act funds it received. Those funds must be allocated by Nov. 20 and all goods/services received by Dec. 30.
Also on Tuesday afternoon, commissioners heard a $14,500 CARES Act request from Mind Body Align, LLC, of Mansfield to provide mindfulness training in local school districts.
The project would train teachers in ways to focus, regulate emotions and develop greater emotional resilience, which teachers could then use in assisting their students.
Commissioners took no immediate action on the request.