By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The willingness of Wood County voters to help those in need resulted in the easy passage of two countywide levies on Tuesday.
The Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ 2.45-mill levy walked away with 72 percent of the vote (34,546 to 13,172), and the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services’ 1-mill levy passed handily with 67 percent of the vote (32,061 to 15,901).
Wood Lane Superintendent Brent Baer said voters clearly responded to the need.
“We’re so appreciative of the support,” he said Tuesday evening. “We’re looking forward to getting back in the office tomorrow and doing what we love to do.”
Baer was pleasantly surprised by the margin of the levy’s victory. The last time the levy was on the ballot in 2013, it passed with 57 percent of the vote.
The increased support may be because of a decrease in the millage, and in the spike in demands for Wood Lane services, Baer said.
“I do believe people really responded to the information,” that requests for services are at an all-time high, he said. “They agreed the need is there.”
Tom Clemons, executive director of Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, spent a great deal of time traveling to communities in the county to educate voters prior to the levy vote.
But he found that many county residents were already aware of the services.
“I think we have really improved our community education over the past several years,” Clemons said.
And the ongoing opiate crisis has helped spread the word.
“The opiate epidemic certainly increased awareness,” he said.
Clemons said he was worried that people would be so tired of hearing about the opiate crisis, that they might shut out the message about the levy. He is also weary of hearing the horrors, “but closing my eyes to it doesn’t make it go away,” he said.
“We’re making a difference. We’re saving people’s lives. But we’ve got a long way to go,” he said.
As he promoted the levy, Clemons also talked about the need for more suicide prevention efforts in the county.
“The high rate of suicides we’re seeing has really sobered people up,” he said.
Voters responded to the need, Clemons said.
“Wood County residents really do have care and compassion, and they come together to help their neighbors,” he said. “I’m very grateful.”