Fayette County human services band together amid budget cuts
Author: Mark Hofmann
Source: Daily Courier
Date: February 4, 2010
Human service providers in Fayette County gathered Wednesday to discuss how last year's state budget affected them and their services, and what they can do to survive the rough road ahead.
"The impetus of this meeting today is to inform, motivate and encourage our providers to remain hopeful and optimistic that our social service initiatives will keep operating," Lori Groover-Smith, acting director of the Fayette County Office of Human Services, stated in a letter.
The meeting was called after the Human Services Development Fund's original state allocation of $620,816 was cut to $545,736. Now, after a tentative budgetary freeze of $4 million throughout Pennsylvania, the revised allocation is expected to be even lower, at $470,576.
Jill Streit, program specialist for the Fayette County Office of Human and Community Services, said the county commissioners signed off on the new contract amendment for the service providers on Jan. 28. Now, the human service directors need to sign off on it.
Smith also stated in letter that eliminating the programs or services that help enrich their clients' lives and letting go of the employees who serve them are options they would like to prevent.
Service providers represented at yesterday's meeting included:
Albert Gallatin Human Services Agency, which provides for 89 residents living below the poverty level with physical and mental disabilities.
City Mission, which helps the homeless in the area and provides emergency housing for men, women and children.
Behavioral Health and Administration, which has a family support service program for children and an adult development training center for various disabilities.
Drug and Alcohol, which uses the funds for their prevention program for substance abuse through the schools and senior citizen centers.
Community Action Agency, which runs an information and referral program that has more than 8,000 calls annually.
Fayette Area Coordinated Transportation, which uses the funds for medical assistance to transport patients for cancer or dialysis treatments.
Cutting services and employee hours, using money from some programs to fund other programs, limiting or eliminating programs, doubling up on duties, and not taking on any new clients were discussed.
Tammy Knouse, director of customer service for Fayette Community Action Agency, suggested establishing a partnership with an entity that can record and report on finite outcomes for their program, like information, referrals and prevention, to the state to help reinforce the need for funding.
Lynn Orawiec, developmental programs director for Fayette's Behavioral Health and Administration, said their clients are really not being heard and need to use their voices as well to help promote what the services do.
Streit said reaching out to different agencies to help in the volunteer effort may prove to be a positive move, but no matter what they should do, comradery should be the first thing.
"I hope to work together," she said. "We want to remain positive and hopeful."