Cuts Forgot To Calculate Human Cost

SHURSHOTS

Programs Eliminated From Budget Likely To Hurt Public In Long Run

March 17, 1991|By Edward H. Shur

Just when you think things can't get worse, they do.

At a press conference Tuesday, the Carroll Commissioners discussed the latest possible budget cuts totaling almost $1.8 million for fiscal '92, beginning July 1. And elderly residents dependent on the county for their health, transportation, nutrition and legal needs were targeted.

While most of those proposed adjustments make sense, four in particular don't:

* Emergency medical dispatch training for 24 911 operators eliminated: $30,000.

How would you feel if your child was choking, you called 911 and asked the operator what to do -- only to find out the person hadn't received training to handle your situation?

* Seventy to 80 people will not receive group or individual counseling at the Sexual Abuse Treatment Center: $18,800 saved.

Do you want to be the one to tell someone who's been sexually abused that you're sorry, but 200 other victims already have been counseled and thecenter can't help anyone else?

That would mean eliminating at least one counselor, at a time the waiting list already has 60 people. It would meaning turning away at least 140 people -- at a time when sex abuse cases in the county, unfortunately, are on the rise.

"I don't know what's going to happen to some of the people

we have to put on the waiting list," said Marcia Meyer, Family and Children Services district director.

* Home health visits cut by 10.2 percent: $15,425 saved.

A Carroll Department of Aging-commissioned study released last year found Carroll's elderly tend to have incomes that areconsidered low when compared to state and national averages. While countywide, residents had a $44,650 median income, those 60 and older had incomes of only $13,940.

Nearly one-third of Carroll's seniorshave no health insurance or only partial coverage, that aging study also found.

When two-thirds of seniors reporting problems getting health care already are saying cost is the major issue, does a 10.2 percent cut in health visits make sense to you?

* Two thousand fewer meals served through nutrition program: $6,400 saved.

This move would require some of the almost 3,000 seniors who are served 50,000 meals a year to provide their own meals on several days.

But Department of Aging Director Jolene Sullivan has said that many seniors, when left on their own, simply don't eat.

These four items only amount to a $70,625 savings -- but the services eliminated mean a whole lot more to those who would be the victims of the budget ax.

To quote Commissioner Vice President Elmer C. Lippy Jr., "When I look where to take cuts, I notice that we haven't really affected the day-to-day operations of the county government. Ironically, all (the cuts) seem to affect are those services that help human beings."

And that's my point: The commissioners need to take a sharper look at trimmingsome of the less important day-to-day operations in areas where those who need the most help will be least affected.

Since all cuts outlined are only proposals at this point, I hope the commissioners will have the wisdom to find the $70,625 elsewhere and restore these four items.

Management and Budget Director Steven D. Powell said a lot of these cuts "are pretty hard to swallow."

These four make me gag. Do the commissioners know the Heimlich maneuver?

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