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Carbon to receive decrease in drug and alcohol funding

Published August 31. 2013 09:00AM

Carbon County will receive 3 percent less in state and federal funding next year for drug and alcohol programs.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the commissioners discussed a piece of correspondence from the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs about the Federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funds.

Carbon County will receive $521,615 for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 fiscal years. That is $15,776 less than originally allocated.

Commissioner William O'Gurek said that funding cuts have been an ongoing situation in many areas over the last few years, making it harder to keep the same amount of services available.

He noted that while a 3 percent reduction doesn't look like a lot of money, it will mean that approximately 20 people who are in need of drug or alcohol programs will not able to be served by the Carbon-Monroe-Pike Drug and Alcohol program.

"It's a sad situation," O'Gurek said. "I wish it was different. I'm disappointed that funding for those programs continues to drop."

He said that in 2011 the county was receiving $623,000 for drug and alcohol programs.

"This money is used to target individuals who need drug and alcohol treatment and if they don't receive it, they are likely to show up in a different program that we are also responsible for the prison or court system," O'Gurek said, adding that he plans to speak with Congressman Matthew Cartwright to see if anything could be done.

"I hope that maybe we can continue to fund the program at the existing or higher levels because they are very, very important to municipalities and counties in general and to the people who are very much troubled in specific."

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, reported that the drug and alcohol phone calls being handled in the county are increasing.

In 2006, the county 911 communication center handled 206 emergency calls relating to drugs or alcohol. In 2012, that number jumped to 420 and from Jan. 1 to July 31, 209 calls have already been handled.

Nothstein explained that these numbers do not include calls that could have been drug related but were called in as another emergency, such as suicide, code blue, unconscious person, mental or unknown problem.

"It (drugs and alcohol) is a really serious problem in Carbon County and the country," Nothstein said. "Every time we lose funding for these programs the problems keep getting worse and cost us more."

Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard said that he spoke with Carbon County Warden Joseph Gross Thursday morning, who reported that the inmate population at the Carbon County Correctional Facility was currently 203, but will balloon to 215 this weekend as weekend-sentenced inmates arrive to complete their sentence.

"It's something that none of us are happy with," Gerhard said of the increased inmate population and overcrowding at the prison due to drug and alcohol related cases. "We have to address these problems."

In other matters, the county will receive $20,928 more in Compulsive and Problem Gambling Treatment funds for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, according to that same letter; and $26,429 for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The money must be used for outreach, education, awareness and prevention programs related to problem gambling.

The commissioners also approved the following personnel actions.

• The retirement of Mary S. Schmitt of Beaver Meadows as the district justices office supervisor I, effective Sept. 6.

• Appoint Ryan J. Rehatchek of Nesquehoning as a deputy sheriff in the sheriff's office, effective Sept. 9.

• Approve Michael P. Maher Sr.'s leave of absence. The dates will be from Aug. 26 to Sept. 25.

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