Children’s Services Fund wants to increase sales tax by 1/8 cent to help troubled teens get mental health counseling

JACKSON COUNTY, Mo. -- Thousands of kids  in the metro are struggling with mental illness, homelessness and drug abuse, and they are not getting the help they need, but a sales tax proposal would change that.

Every day, troubled teens enter the juvenile justice system. Many of these teens are homeless, victims of domestic abuse, drug abusers. They need help, and right now, the money is not there to treat all of them.

Social services leaders say more than 8,000 teens cannot get mental health counseling right now because the money isn’t there to hire more counselors. So they are on a waiting list. Without counseling, these teens run the risk of re-offending and hurting others,  or themselves.

"The kids we see have all experienced an extreme trauma," said Lisa Mizell the executive director of the Child Protection Center. "Being able to get them the appropriate mental health services makes them healthier, benefits society down the road. They're not reoffending, causing problems, entering the juvenile justice system."

The Children’s Services Fund is meant to fill that gap. The sales tax would raise around $15-million a year that would go to local social services agencies that deal with troubled teens.

They add that every dollar invested in prevention saves $11 that would’ve been spent down the line on drug treatment, lost wages or jail costs.

It’s a one-eighth cent sales tax, which means you would be charged an extra penny for every $8 you spend. Those pennies would all add up to an extra $15-million  a year that would go to 35-to-40 different social services agencies in Jackson County.

Supporters understand many don’t like paying more in taxes, so asking voters to approve spending $25 more in sales tax every year will be a challenge.

"Anytime you're asking people to give up their money it's a hard sell, but it's such a small amount of money," Mizell said. "Eight dollars will put one penny out of your pocket. It's not much money. I don't think people will miss it and it will make such a significant difference in hope we treat out children in Jackson County."