Funding cuts starting to hurt
Carbon County is beginning to feel the effects of the funding cuts in the 2013 state budget.
During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Commissioner William O'Gurek pointed out a piece of correspondence from the Department of Public Welfare, Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, which notified the county that the 2012-2013 primary allocation for drug and alcohol services will be $582,577.
"This correspondence reveals that we're starting to see the reduction of funding of services in Carbon County from the legislature and governor's office in Harrisburg," he said, adding that the figure represents a 6.5 percent reduction in state funding from last year.
"I'm saddened by the fact that the legislature and governor see fit to cut programs for the people who need them the most."
This cut will affect services in the Carbon-Monroe-Pike Drug and Alcohol program in two different ways O'Gurek noted.
It will affect Behavioral Health Services Initiative, which serves those who are "uninsured, who do not have insurance that cover the service they need, or cannot obtain Medical Assistance benefits;" as well as Act 152, which "provides funding for nonhospital residential detoxification and rehabilitation services for persons eligible for medical assistance."
O'Gurek said that he spoke with representatives from the CMP Drug and Alcohol program, who stated that the decrease in funding will now result in "22 individuals who will not receive the level of necessary care in 2013 that they would require."
"The cuts in services, I believe, will have an effect on not only the individuals, but the families and perhaps society as well because a lot of these programs are designed to help sustain individuals so they don't show up somewhere else in the system, like the justice system. I'm saddened by the 6.5 percent decrease in funding for drug and alcohol services that affect Carbon County."
O'Gurek said that the state budget will cause a trickle effect because the lower funding will now put pressure on the counties and school districts to make up the differences.
He noted that county agencies will be seeing a 10 percent cut in services, the block grant for the Area Agency on Aging will be less than last fiscal year and prices for food services to the elderly have increased by approximately $13,000 for 2013.
"We're going to be stretched pretty thin," O'Gurek said. "It's going to come down to the case where we're not going to be able to provide some programs."
Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, agreed with O'Gurek that this is a sad situation because the funding cuts are hurting preventive programs and causing court and crime rates to increase.
"I don't always see the reasoning behind the cuts in preventive programs," he said, adding that on Wednesday, he listened to a presentation on the results of a drug and alcohol survey on children in the county.
The survey revealed that a significant number of children, grades six and up, use drugs, tobacco or alcohol.
A total of 3,000 students were surveyed in all five school districts and Carbon Career & Technical Institute.
"It's quite alarming to see the amount of kids that use drugs and alcohol on a daily or weekly basis," he said.
Drug and alcohol services are only one of many county agencies feeling the squeeze as the 2013 state budget begins to take effect.
On Wednesday, during a meeting of the Carbon County Child and Family Collaborative, which is a group of organizations that come together to create a network of programs for children and families, representatives of the board announced that funding for the Right From the Start Program, a program geared to help children from birth to age 5, is running out in six months. The new LEARN program, which helps families of children entering kindergarten was also cut when the state budget was signed. The program was implemented this past year.
In other business, the county acted on the following items:
• Approved the contract for food service for the Area Agency on Aging with Metz Culinary Management of Dallas, Pa., for food service for the next five years. The total for the five years is $1,707,830.
• Approved a 30-day extension to Spotts Brothers, Inc. of Schuylkill Haven for the courthouse chimney repair project. The extension is due to the need for the chimney cap replacement.
• Approved the Homeless Assistance Program Final Expenditure Report for the period of July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012.
• Adopted a resolution authorizing the chairman or vice chairman to execute any or all documents relative to financial assistance 01.01.08844 through the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration in the amount of $1 million for the Packerton Yards Project, new roadway, and utility system. This action assigns a new signatory for the account.