Aid Agencies Try To Relax After Budget Standoff

October 13, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

For the executive director of Harford's Sexual Assault, Spouse AbuseResource Center, it was a nerve-wracking week, as she watched the agency's financial future hang in the balance.

On Friday, reassured that sexual assault centers' funding would likely be spared in the second round of state budget cuts, Donna DeBussy felt cautiously optimistic.

"I felt like we were pawns in a chess game. That we came as closeas we did to losing state money is scary. At least we've gotten a small reprieve," DeBussy said before pausing.

"For now. But the state deficit goes up every day. This is just the first scare."

DeBussy had feared Gov. William Donald Schaefer would follow through on hisproposal to cut all state dollars given to sexual assault centers.

For DeBussy's center, that would have meant losing $67,956 in stateaid.

That amount represents about 26 percent of the agency's $263,154 operating budget.

However, the state money at issue is directed solely to such sexual assault services as counseling victims. Losing the $67,956 would have meant the end of most of those services.

Other agencies and groups that received direct state aid weren't so lucky, said Thomas M. Thomas, the county's health officer. He said the Mann House, a halfway house, would lose $33,333 due to state budgetcuts -- a significant cut in its budget.

Thomas also said that the Harford Center, where day programs are offered for retarded citizens, would be affected. The center stands to lose $65,800 that would have paid for transportation of developmentally disabled individuals toprogram sites.

Rosemarie Lane, director of the Harford Center, said, "This is the first I've heard of it. We get quarterly payments from the state. It would affect all 49 of our clients. They are all brought here on the van."

Even though it appeared by week's end that the compromise between General Assembly leaders and the governor would hold, DeBussy remained somewhat skeptical that sexual assault centers' budgets would go unscathed.

"Unless there's a long-term solution, we could be going through this again next year or even before next year. I'm leery of any words I hear these days."

Last year, SARChelped 135 people, including 41 children, providing sexual assault counseling services and crisis intervention, she said.

In addition,177 people used the agency's help phone line.

If SARC loses any state money in the future, most of sexual assault services program could be wiped out, DeBussy said.

"If we lose state money, we couldn't do the adult incest survivors group therapy, and play therapy for sexually abused children would be eliminated. We'd lose counseling services because our one full-time staff position would be completely eliminated," she said.

"We could still provide the hot line, and offer some comfort and referral over the phone, but we're not going to be able to offer much beyond that."

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