Impending state and county budget cuts are having a chilling effect on some human service programs employees who wonder whether they willhave jobs after funding is cut.
"A therapist who has been with usfor five years handed in her resignation because she can't live withthe uncertainty," said Lisa Goshen, executive director for the Howard County Sexual Assault Center.
While the therapist was the first to resign because of a fear of layoffs, Goshen believes more may follow because of the insecurity brought on by the recent budget crunch.
"They don't work in human services for the money. They do it to help people, but they do need a job," she said.
State and county budget problems will force a reduction in services at a time of increased demand, members of the Association of Community Services said at a meeting Wednesday.
"That's the Catch-22 we're operating in," said Nancy Weber of the Howard County Health Department.
The meeting was not supposed to be a "doom and gloom" session but one that would help groups deal with reality, said association president Jane Walker at the meeting at the Board of Education Building.
"We need to keep talking. If we come together as one voice, it will be much louder and stronger," she said.
Health-care providers and service programs for victims and the disabled outlined reductions that will result from budget cuts. For example, theHealth Department may have to curtail vision and hearing tests on elementary and middle school pupils, Webersaid.
"We still want to provide services to people. But with the reduced funding, we will provide quality services to fewer people," said Manus J. O'Donnell, director of the county Department of Citizen Services.
Most services arestill available, but the waiting time has increased.
Human services has already taken a 15 percent cut, and the state may take a bigger bite, O'Donnell said. He added that it is important that services are not pitted against each other.
When the rape crisis centers lost their state funding, Citizens Against Spousal Assault members were out protesting, said Fran Price, CASA executive director. Money for the centers was restored.
"We need to start working together," she said.
The private sector will be called on to help human services programs during the financial squeeze, Weber said. The Health Department is trying to set up partnerships with private doctors to provide care, she said.
AH Programs face a Catch-22 of increased demand and declining support