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Ohio merging mental health, drug abuse agencies

Associated Press Modified: May 5, 2012 at 12:30 pm •  Published: May 5, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — State agencies providing mental-health and substance-abuse services in Ohio will be merged pending legislative approval into a single agency with a combined 2,500 employees and a budget in excess of $650 million.

The administration of Gov. John Kasich said the merger will reduce bureaucratic clutter.

The move was announced Friday and involves the Ohio Department of Mental Health and the Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.

They will be merged July 1 pending legislative approval.

State officials tell The Columbus Dispatch ( that layoffs are not expected, although the combined work force may shrink with attrition.

Mental Health Department Director Tracy J. Plouck will lead the new agency and alcohol and drug agency Director Orman Hall will continue in a cabinet-level position, reporting to Gov. John Kasich.

"It's going to be a brand-new department that balances the mental-health and addiction interests in a way I think is going to be very productive," Hall said.

A union official said employees were caught off-guard by the announcement.

"We are just now hearing about this," said Sally Meckling of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, which represents many employees in both agencies. "Obviously, it's better when those who do the work are involved in the discussions."

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