The county asked all of its departments to trim budgets by up to 15 percent.With just a 10 percent cut, DSS is having to eliminate services such as the CARE Center, which operates the only domestic violence shelter in Cumberland County.
The family violence center, which is also the oldest center of its kind in the state, has helped thousands of victims and offenders since it opened in 1979. The DSS proposal would cut the program from its budget.
"It helped us to see there are different ways of handling things other than violence," says a domestic violence victim helped by the agency.
Last year more than 600 women and their children also came here for help. Many needed shelter. Now that protection may be taken away.
"There are lives at stake," says the center's Crystal Black. "My concern is the women and children will not have a place to go... Abusers will not have any services to help him get past this."
DSS Director Chip Modlin says the $276,000 in county money is needed to fund mandated programs like Child Protective Services and Work First.
Those programs could not be cut by law. "We had to cut programs where they may be essential, but not mandated by law," Modlin says.
Modlin says he hopes to convince county commissioners that closing the center will not be cost effective down the road.
He is ultimately most concerned about safety. What will happen if the shelter is not available to people who need it? Modlin spent Thursday afternoon expressing those concerns to members of the Board of Social Services.
County Commissioner Mac Tyson is encouraging DSS to find innovative funding. At the same time, he says there is no reason to get alarmed just yet.
"At this point it's simply looking and trying to reach the best solution to a difficult situation," says Tyson.
"For those people who need help, look for help, it would be a terrible thing to close this down," says a victim helped by the center.
In the meantime, the center plans to pursue grants and ask the state for additional funding.
CARE Center employees say they have been inundated with phone calls from people concerned about the center.
Chip Modlin says the Welfare and Medicaid Fraud Unit and In-home Services for the elderly are other major programs slated to close because of budget problems.
Modlin hopes to prevent layoffs by relocating employees.
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