Hayden plan to cut money for mental health is decried Services will suffer, director cautions

April 21, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden's proposed cuts in mental health spending could reduce employment programs and treatment and hurt efforts to help the mentally ill, the county's top mental health official says.

Hayden administration budget officials dispute that, claiming the $871,234 cut from a $2 million budget request will not damage the county's mental health programs.

Budget Director Fred Homan said that when state and county funds are counted, the mental health programs will have only $78,000 less than they requested.

The money Mr. Hayden wants to cut was to continue support for five private, nonprofit community programs, five county-run mental health clinics and the county's Bureau of Mental Health Services.

"There's a $78,000 difference," Mr. Homan said. "Does that sound like the world's falling apart in mental health? It doesn't to me."

But Edward J. Matricardi, director of the mental health bureau, said the cut means the county will not be able to pay some psychiatrists, nurses and staff at the county centers and may have to cut $50,000 or more from each of the five private, nonprofit groups the bureau helps support.

Also, county mental health workers could be laid off, he said.

"This will cause a very severe service decrease," he said.

However, Merreen E. Kelly, the county's administrative officer, said the county is merely reversing what happened last year, when the state gap.

This year, he said, the county reduced its funding because the state is paying its normal share.

Sources familiar with the budget process said top Hayden administration officials decided on the budget cuts without asking the county's mental health professionals what effect they would have.

Mr. Matricardi said he is trying to find a way to distribute the cuts to limit the damage. Still, he said, the cuts will mean less treatment and likely cause more hospital admissions for people now treated in the community centers.

R. Scott Graham, director of Revisions Inc., one of the mental health programs affected, said a $50,000 cut would end most of his efforts to help chronic mentally ill people re-enter society as employees.

The other nonprofit agencies that get county money are Alliance in Rosedale, Prologue in Reisterstown, Dulaney Station in Timonium, and Key Point in Dundalk.

Revisions, based in the first block Winters Lane in Catonsville, uses county money to pay counselors like John Tierney, 26.

Yesterday, Mr. Tierney worked with two mentally ill people in the program's Catonsville warehouse. The former police officer makes $15,000 a year helping the mentally ill become comfortable working at paying jobs.

Revisions works with the Atlantic Recycled Paper Co. by boxing and shipping orders of recycled paper products.

"I love it. I like helping them," Mr. Tierney said. "They know I'm here to help."

Other counselors at Revisions help former mental hospital patients prepare resumes and accompany them on job searches. After the person has found a job, the counselors stay with their "associates," talk to them about problems they encounter and help them adjust. Gradually, the associates are left on their own, Mr. Graham said.

Bonnie Levy, operations manager for Alliance, said the cut would hurt her group's ability to get mental patients back to work so they can become taxpayers instead of Social Security recipients.

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