Patient's father laments end of mental health clinic Spending cuts affect families BALTIMORE COUNTY

July 14, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Paul Amonick's 21-year-old son is getting priceless help in controlling his manic-depressive moods and moving toward the independence a job would bring. But the Baltimore County mental health clinic he attends is closing July 30.

"It's kind of a setback. I'm upset," Mr. Amonick said. He said he hopes that the three weeks left at the Hannah More Day Treatment Center will provide enough improvement so his son can get along with the less-frequent help the county will offer.

The closing of the Reisterstown program, which is part of the county's Northwestern Community Mental Health Center, is a dramatic example of the impact of spending cuts in state and county mental health programs. Two full-time counselors at the Reisterstown program, and a part-time counselor, a social worker and a nurse will lose their jobs. The 18 patients in the program will lose most of their treatment because of the $162,000 cut.

Less-frequent counseling will be offered to those patients at the county's Randallstown Family Services Resource Center in the 8700 block of Liberty Road.

County Health Department spokeswoman Karen Stott said state funding for the Hannah More program was cut Jan. 1, and the county cannot afford to foot the bill alone.

Altogether this fiscal year, the county will spend $307,582 less in local money on community rehabilitation and mental health programs than it spent in fiscal 1993, which ended June 30. Community rehabilitation programs are operated by five private, nonprofit groups that help chronically mentally ill people get and hold jobs.

According to county estimates, the equivalent of 4.5 full-time positions will be eliminated in the five rehabilitation programs, ReVisions, Alliance, Prologue, New Ventures and Key Point. They will have to absorb a $145,502 cut.

R. Scott Graham, president of ReVisions, a Catonsville-based program, said the $27,000 cut he will have to absorb will hurt, but not cripple his operation.

"We might not have to make staff cuts," he said, referring to fears several months ago that the county would cut as much as $60,000.

These new budget decisions are taking effect late, since the new fiscal year began July 1. Ms. Stott said that the Hannah Moore program should have closed then, but officials decided to delay a month to provide an "orderly transition."

The cuts are the final result of several months of work and turmoil that began in April, when County Executive Roger B. Hayden pared $871,234 from the $2 million in county funds requested for community mental health programs.

Originally, county officials believed that increases in state funding would make up for most of the difference. But they eventually found that the new state money is intended for specific programs and can't be used to fill gaps in county spending.

County Budget Director Fred Homan said the county was caught in a box because the county took up the slack for reduced state spending over the past two years, and now is being blamed for cuts that originally came from the state.

Mr. Amonick said he doesn't know the ins and outs of county and state budgets. But he does know that his son's three-day-a-week sessions at Hannah More were paying off. He said his son was getting better at controlling his moods, and might soon have been ready for state vocational rehabilitation that may have led to a job.

"He went three days a week, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. This gives him something to do," Mr. Amonick said.

He said his private health insurance doesn't cover mental health treatment for his son, and that he can't afford to pay for it himself.

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