Residents protest plan to cut service Sex abuse survivor says counseling allowed recovery

$5 million may be trimmed

Citizen service programs may lose $1 million

March 17, 1996|By Jackie Powder and Greg Tasker | Jackie Powder and Greg Tasker,SUN STAFF

Victims of rape and child sexual abuse told their moving stories of survival yesterday in an effort to convince County Commissioners not to approve proposed budget cuts to counseling programs.

"Rape is not a crisis to be forgotten and no survivor will ever forget," said Joyce, who testified at yesterday's budget hearing at the County Agricultural Center in Westminster.

In front of a packed hearing room, Joyce, who asked that her last name not be used, described a life scarred by child sexual abuse, rape and domestic violence.

It wasn't until she went to the Rape Crisis Intervention Service two years ago that she received the counseling she needed.

"Today I'm a rape crisis hot line volunteer and I give of my time freely because I know the importance of immediate response to a crisis caused by sexual violence," Joyce said.

The Rape Crisis Intervention Service is one of several nonprofit groups facing proposed county budget cuts that would reduce and in some cases eliminate the services they provide.

The proposed cuts are part of a broad package of budget-trimming measures being considered by the commissioners. Faced with sluggish property and income tax growth, the commissioners must trim $5 million from the county's operating budget in fiscal 1997, which begins July 1, or find additional revenue.

Citizen service programs, including nonprofit groups that serve the developmentally disabled and disadvantaged, are facing a cut of nearly $1 million.

The commissioners last week began a series of unprecedented evening hearings to learn the impact of the proposed cuts on departments and agencies.

Under the budget proposal, Rape Crisis would lose all of its $50,640 in county funding. Jo Ann Hare, the agency's director, said the cuts would mean a reduction in community education programs and victim services, including accompanying rape victims to the hospital and court.

"Not only are we trying to help people already hurt by sexual violence," Ms. Hare told the commissioners, "we're working to create a community where people don't have to go without help because they didn't know there were laws to protect them."

Budget officials estimated up to 103 county and county-funded jobs in nonprofit agencies could be eliminated because of the cuts. Officials said most would be reduced through attrition.

Other groups represented at yesterday's hearing included Human Services Programs, Youth Services Bureau, the Sexual Abuse Treatment Center, Junction and the county Department of Citizen Services. Agency officials told the commissioners that the proposed cuts would result in less staff supervision at the county's homeless shelters, fewer visits to homebound elderly residents and fewer services to needy children and their mothers.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said that over the past five years, the county has lost more than $70 million in state revenue.

"Do we want to increase taxes at the local level to pay for these things?" he asked, referring to programs targeted for budget cuts.

His question was met with shouts of "yes" and enthusiastic applause from those in the crowded hearing room.

of the hardest-hit programs is the Sexual Abuse Treatment Center, a counseling service run by the nonprofit Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland. The program would lose its entire county allocation of $271,690, ending the sexual abuse treatment program, which provides services to 309 clients, including 105 children.

Dianne Jones, 40, who said she was sexually abused as a child, stressed the importance of providing treatment as early as possible.

"If you don't get to these children soon, real soon," she told the commissioners, "you're going to pay for it one way or the other.

"They may be robbing your house or sitting at home taking your tax dollars."

Sandra L. Rappeport, Carroll County district director of Family and Children's Services, said the Sexual Abuse Treatment Center could continue to treat its 105 child clients with $136,000 half of its current county allocation. In the proposed budget, that money will go to the Youth Services Bureau to help absorb the Sexual Abuse Treatment Center's counseling caseload.

"We are the experts in child sexual abuse," Ms. Rappeport told the commissioners. "This field requires expertise beyond what a generic counselor can provide."

On Friday, Larry L. Leitch, the county's deputy health officer, told the commissioners a proposed $117,200 cut to the health department budget would mean the loss of a nurse at a maternity clinic two days a week.

Also, vision and hearing programs would not be expanded despite expected increases in student enrollment. Mr. Leitch said the department's home health program, which provides services to acutely ill homebound patients, would not be affected unless patient caseloads increase.

Pub Date: 3/17/96

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