Thursday, July 12, 2001

Board firm in support for raises


Mental health agency supported

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Board members at Warren County's agency for the mentally ill stood firm Wednesday in their support of a new salary schedule that includes raises as high as 52 percent.

        The raises are necessary because salaries had been too low, said Marion Fitch, chairman of the board of Mental Health Recovery Services of Warren and Clinton counties.

        “There's nothing excessive about it,” he said. “But it's popular for the (county) commissioners to say that.”

        About 75 clients and staff packed the Recovery Services board meeting to support the agency s in the wake of Warren County commissioners' recent criticism of salary increases there.

        “Your money is not wasted, I guarantee you,” said Lebanon resident Rich Williams, a teacher who got help overcoming panic attacks.

        Recovery Services recently completed a salary study along with five private agencies it pays to counsel, employ and house the mentally ill. The goal was to equalize salaries among similar jobs and get closer to market rates, Recovery Services Executive Director Bill Harper said.

        County Commissioner Pat South has accused Mr. Harper of pressuring the board of New Housing Opportunities, one of the private agencies used by Recovery Services, into increasing its payroll 25 percent for the fiscal year that began July 1. Some of the raises for higher-paid staffers are excessive, she said, especially given that layoffs will be necessary if Recovery Services doesn't pass its levy in November.

        On the other hand, Scott Norris, a counselor at the Mental Health and Recovery Center of Warren County, thanked the board for his raise Wednesday night, saying he would no longer have to work a second job to make ends meet.

        Clients also have felt the effects of uncompetitive salaries. Jeff Bolin of Clinton County recently lost his case worker of three years when she left for a better-paying job.

       



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