Cuts Create A 'Crisis' For Addicts

October 06, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

Almost 1,000 county drug and alcohol addicts are treated by the three inpatient treatment centers run by the Health Department.

Come Nov. 1, they could all be out on the street.

When Gov. William Donald Schaefer's $1.6 million slash in the department's $10 million budget takes effect, the centers -- Shoemaker House detoxification center in Westminster, the Carroll Addictions rehabilitation program at Springfield Hospital and the Regan Center in Sykesville -- will have to close their doors.

"It is one of our services that is most severely hurt," said Larry L. Leitch, the department's deputy director and the only health official allowed to talk to the press about the budget cuts. "We're definitely in a crisis mode."

The closing of the three centers leaves only the outpatient treatment center in Westminster to offer addiction programs to low-income county residents.

"We will have to turn even more people away thanwe've had to in the past," Leitch said.

But the addicts aren't the only ones to feel the punch of Schaefer's $450 million budget deficit reduction program unveiled last week.

Though the state so far has left the department's mental health programs relatively intact, health officials say that a reduction in the number of patients that can be treated is possible.

Health Department cuts alone will reducethe amount of immunizations, public nursing assistance and preventive health-care services the agency can give to residents. It also could eliminate restaurant inspections, air quality monitoring, dental health services, health education, nutritional education, physical, occupational and speech therapy and youth camp inspections.

"These cuts go to the very traditional roles of the Health Department," Leitchsaid.

The county's programs on aging -- which already took a nearly 5 percent cut in funding two months ago -- haven't been hit especially hard in last week's budget plan.

But should money get any tighter, or should the commissioners decide to chip away at the $300,000the county gives to programs on aging, officials say that home health-care visits, senior meals programs and transportation services could be reduced or eliminated.

"I think we'll make it out of this round OK," said Jolene G. Sullivan, director of the Department of Citizen Services, which runs the Bureau of Aging.

In August, $18,000 wascut from the $383,000 the state provides to the bureau. That cut thebureau's mostly volunteer program of visiting nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities from five days a week to one.

Sullivan, who must submit to the commissioners a list of places to trim up to 5 percent of the agency's $300,000 in county funding, said she hopes that most bureau services remain intact.

"I hope we can keep our services," she said. "But some are going to have to be made a priority."

Sullivan's budget also was almost the victim of the county's budget crunch earlier this year. A last-minute reprieve before the passageof the county's fiscal 1992 budget kept most senior citizen servicesintact.

Carroll Transit System, the county's private, non-profit mass transit company, also could be providing less service to the poor and elderly if state and county governments continue to chip away at its $470,000 budget.

"We don't want to cut, but we'll probably have to cut some specialized trips," said system Director Linda R. Boyer.

The system is going to begin charging more people for their services, reducing the amount of single-passenger trips, and, should cuts be deep enough, even turning down seniors who need transportation for medical procedures such as kidney dialysis.

"We already don't service anybody who doesn't absolutely need it," Boyer said.

About4,000 Carroll residents -- mostly senior citizens who have no other means of transportation to health care or shopping -- use the serviceevery month.

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