Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: Take Politics out of Chidren's Mental Health Care

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: Take Politics out of Chidren's Mental Health Care

Article excerpt

With a new St. Louis County executive in charge, it's time to take politics out of the county's Children's Service Fund and to accelerate spending more than $70 million in the fund on the kids it's meant to help.

County Executive Steve Stenger has taken the correct first step in getting rid of the fund's interim executive director, Julie Leicht. Ms. Leicht's "interim" tenure lasted nearly two years, despite her having had no prior experience in children's issues. She did have valuable experience as a political supporter and staff member for then-County Executive Charlie Dooley.

Mr. Stenger has replaced Ms. Leicht with another interim executive director, David Ewing, the fund's former comptroller. A spokesman for Mr. Stenger, Cordell Whitlock, said Ms. Leicht has been "reassigned."

Mr. Ewing said Wednesday that the fund had a bank account of about $81 million at the beginning of the year. The balance today is probably about $73 million after paying out invoices on services that have been delivered, he said.

Voters created the fund in 2008, approving a quarter-cent sales tax to raise about $40 million a year for children's mental health needs. The big question about the fund is why so much money has accumulated in a bank account instead of being spent where it's needed.

During last fall's election campaign, Mr. Stenger said he wanted some of the funds to be made available to support various needs of children in the Ferguson area following the police shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown last August.

Mr. Ewing said that $1.4 million was spent out of the fund in the Ferguson area from August through November and that when all the bills are submitted, the fund will have spent nearly $3.9 million there last year.

Mr. Ewing says the fund is following best practices by paying for services after they have been delivered instead of disbursing funds beforehand. …

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