Although the Enquirer's headline and lede on Issue 4 strive to cast the levy in the most negative light possible, the Family Services and Treatment Levy will fund several important programs administered by the Hamilton County courts.
The levy, while technically new, is really just a smaller version of the Drake levy, which is ending this year. Since Drake Hospital no longer needs public money, the Drake levy needs to end. But a significant portion of that levy has historically supported court-ordered treatment programs, so a new levy was created just to fund those.
In particular, the levy funds the municipal court's residential treatment programs and the common pleas Drug Court. The former is an alternative to jail sentences (but still places an offender in a facility guarded by the sheriff's office). The latter is the primary way that low-level, first time drug offenders in Hamilton County can participate in "treatment in lieu of conviction," through which a defendant can avoid a felony record by completing--under court supervision--a drug treatment program.
If passed, the levy will also fund two other noteworthy programs. The first, "Off the Streets," is run by Cincinnati Union Bethel. The program has been around since 2006, but hasn't previously been supported by county dollars. The program has an excellent reputation--and from what I've seen, a record of success. The second program would create a SAMI (substance abuse and mental illness) court in common pleas court. For the last few years, the municipal court has had a "mental health court," to which offenders with mental illness are tracked. They receive intensive supervision and connected with needed services. Presumably, the SAMI court would work the same way. I've represented several clients in the municipal court's program, and can't say enough about its potential to bring about positive change in individuals' lives.
All of these are important programs. If Issue 4 fails, judges will have fewer treatment and rehabilitative options. The levy funds programs that can really give people a fresh start in life.