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Mental Health/Developmental Services facing $2 million cut in state funding

Published February 24. 2012 05:01PM

Carbon-Monroe-Pike Mental Health/Developmental Services is facing a possible $2 million cut in state funding for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Commissioner William O'Gurek said that the commissioners spoke with Sheila Theodorou, administrator of the Carbon branch of MH/DS, about Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget.

The budget, if passed without changes, includes a reduction of $299,063 for developmental services and a $1,645,044 reduction in mental health services for the three counties. Currently, it costs $17,755,607 annually to operate the entire MH/DS program in Carbon, Monroe and Pike counties.

"I think it's really sad that the governor is proposing for the three counties, a $2 million dollar reduction in funds," O'Gurek said. "The scary thing is that a number of things are likely to result because of the governor's proposal, including a reduction of services, staff layoffs, the privatization of case management and unemployment that Carbon, Monroe and Pike would have to pay."

Theodorou echoed O'Gurek's thoughts, saying that programs like Intensive Case management, residential programs, outpatient services to mentally ill, Family Support programs and more would be affected.

"The 20 percent reduction would impact all the people we serve using base funds in Carbon County," she said, noting that MH/DS currently serves 745 Carbon resident. "Developmental services families served by FSS funds will no longer be granted small allocations to pay for respite services, or camp, recreation programs will be defunded. In many instances these are the only services many families get to help them cope with the long-term stress of having an intellectually delayed family member.

"In terms of Mental Health services, the working poor will not be able to access therapy/counseling services, seriously mentally ill may become homeless, crime will increase as people fall through the cracks, outreach programs to children in schools who appear to be at risk will be eliminated, these are just a few, the list goes on and on," she continued.

Theodorou noted that another project that will be greatly affected if the budget is passed without changes.

"Of critical importance is the impact to the individuals served through the Community Hospital Integration project. These are the people with significant mental illness who were discharged from state hospital settings such as Allentown State Hospital, however there are many other services that serve developmentally delayed and MH ranging from outpatient MH to family support services," she said.

O'Gurek said that Corbett is also proposing a Human Development Block Grant, which would allow counties and joinder boards to move money between services.

He noted that even though this would allow the counties to move money to needed services, the fact still remains that the cuts offset any benefits the HDBG would provide.

He and Theodorou stressed that residents can help MH/DS by voicing their opposition to state legislators.

"I am publicly calling upon our legislators, both in the Senate and the House, to take a look at this and not let the governor's proposal to cut millions of dollars out of services provided to people who need it the most."

He added that "sadly the governor has not proposed cuts to the welfare program."

"I think everyone here knows there is a large amount of abuse," he said of the welfare program. "There's problems with that program and it just amazes me that we continue to fund that program without reductions and we're cutting programs that are so vital to the less fortunate people of these counties.

Commissioners Wayne Nothstein, chairman; and Thomas J. Gerhard, both echoed O'Gurek's thoughts.

They said they spoke with state Rep. Doyle Heffley regarding the cuts.

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