Local News

Tight Budget Forces Cumberland County Agency To Cut Back On Employees, Services

Posted July 11, 2000

— Like many county agencies, theCumberland County Mental Health Centerhas been hit hard in its budget. The center requested a $500,000 increase which it did not receive. Now, the it has to eliminate several vacant positions that would have dealt directly with clients.

Thousands of people go to the center every year. Some need help with drug and alcohol abuse, while others come for mental health or developmental disability services. With the new cutbacks, those people may have to wait months for help.

"Previously, we had people needing services that we could get in in two or three weeks. We call those delays," says Tom Miriello, director of the Mental Health Center. "Now we don't have enough resources to have the counseling staff and enough provision of services to where there could be delays for months."

Miriello says this is the fourth year in a row the center has to operate at the same level of funding.

With Medicaid losses and unfunded state mandates, he says there was no choice but to eliminate or freeze 40 positions, including social workers, nurses and an on-call doctor.

"It dwindles back an already fragile system," Miriello says.

For now, the mental health center will have to prioritize. Emergency cases will be handled right away. People with less severe problems may have to wait up to six months for an appointment.

"They will go through a process of problems that are beginning to become worsened and requiring some more intensive care later on," Moriello says.

Joyce Evans, whose grown son receives help at the center for his autism, says providing services right away is vital.

"I feel sad for the families and the clients because they are really helpful," Evans says. "Without them, I don't know what these families will do."

Along with eliminating positions at the center, funding to 16 vendors will be cut. Those services include rape crisis, halfway houses and child therapuetic homes.


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