Expected cuts in state aid likely will deliver a "devastating blow" to social programs in Carroll County, the official in charge of such services told the county commissioners yesterday.
Carroll, like most areas of the state, is facing cuts in state funding of as much as 20 percent, said Jolene Sullivan, director of the Carroll County Department of Citizen Services. Sullivan said she won't know which programs might suffer most until Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. signs the budget, but she said, "The impact will be on children, families and older adults."
The county is feeling the effect of state cuts. Officials have reluctantly eliminated a popular after-school program, lost money used to evaluate threats from and counsel errant teen-agers, and can no longer accept new elderly residents into a home-care program.
The county's Core Services Agency, which monitors, plans and evaluates mental health services, has lost $135,000 and one employee who worked with children and adolescents. One child who needed that service last week had a violent episode while waiting for treatment and is in juvenile detention.
"So, we are sending kids to jail instead of getting them treatment," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich.
Sullivan has had a glimpse of the expected state cuts to several social services programs, including after-school projects, mental health care and home-based assistance for the elderly.
The cuts, which she learned of last week, are "the tip of the iceberg," said Sullivan. "We are preparing for the worst."
Larry L. Leitch, director of the county Health Department, said the county lost the $15,000 state grant it used to evaluate threats from public school students. The money also helped provide professional counseling.
"These are drastic cuts that mean we will not be able to offer many mental health services," Leitch said.
State aid dropped from $287,000 to $111,000 for the after-school program that the county has operated at Sykesville and New Windsor middle schools for nearly three years. Since it takes at least $125,000 to run one site, the county was forced to cancel one program, said Lynda Gainor, after-school coordinator.
Officials will curtail the program at the Sykesville location, which offers about 110 youths snacks, help with homework, a chance to participate in clubs, and transportation home. Funding runs out June 30.
"We are trying everything we know, including appeals to the community, to keep this program going," Gainor said. "This program gives kids a safe place to stay until their parents get home and they can go home with the majority of their homework done so that school doesn't last all night long. We found something that really works and now we can't find the money to fund it."
The Bureau of Aging will sustain a loss of at least 6 percent in its funding, about $30,000 of which will be cut from its assisted-living subsidy. The senior care program, which pays $350 a month to about 80 elderly residents, assists with prescriptions, health care aides and other services that "allow folks to remain in their homes," said Sullivan.
Because of the funding reduction, the program will not add residents and might have to lower their monthly stipend. Several seniors apply every month for help and will join a growing number on a waiting list.
"We can't add clients and if we don't lose some through attrition, we may have to drop the cap," said Karen Lewns, the bureau's fiscal supervisor.
The commissioners, facing budget cuts of their own, could offer little relief.
"The state took areas where they knew we would be most concerned," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge. "Then, they are asking us to figure out where to get the money or to do without the services."
Sullivan said she is certain "the commissioners are doing their best to preserve as much of these services as they can. We are grappling with what services to cut."