Despite state funding cuts for human services, Bradford County is not making up the difference
TOWANDA - With the state cutting back its spending on many human services programs by 10 percent this year, will counties have to make up the shortfall with their own money?
Towanda Borough Councilman Paul Sweitzer brought the issue up at Thursday's meeting of the Bradford County commissioners.
Sweitzer said he was concerned that the county would have to tap its General Fund for hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to make up for the loss of state funds. Sweitzer said that will impact the county's taxpayers.
But Bradford County Human Services Director Bill Blevins said there is no legal requirement from the state or federal governments that the county make up for the reductions in state funding.
Blevins cited Act 80, which was amended this year, to support his position.
The one exception is that the county might be required to replace a $74,000 state funding cut to its early intervention program for children ages birth to 3 years old, Blevins said.
However, the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning will be reviewing the $74,000 cut and might restore the funding, he said. At a later date, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning will look at "how (the early intervention program) is doing" and how much money it needs, and will likely restore the $74,000 funding cut, Blevins said after the meeting.
On Thursday, the Bradford County commissioners approved the county's Fiscal Year 2012-13 Human Services Plan, which includes no county funds to replace the lost state funds, Blevins said.
When drafting the 2012-13 Human Services Plan, the Human Services Department "did not ask for any county funds" to replace the lost state funds, Blevins said.
Under the plan, no services provided by the Bradford County Human Services Department are being eliminated, he said.
"We want to make sure that people who need services get them, and if not, they don't get them," McLinko said.
Sweitzer, who had been appointed by the commissioners to the Bradford County Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities Advisory Board earlier in the meeting, said he was concerned that there be adequate mental health services for mentally ill people.
He said the state has had a policy of reducing the population of state mental hospitals and has instead been funding mental health services for them while they live in the community. Now, he said, the state is cutting the funding for those community mental health programs.
The state cut its spending on its Community Hospital Integration Projects Program (CHIPP) by 10 percent this year, Blevins said. The CHIPP program provides services to assist people in making a transition from a state mental hospital to a community.
In other business, Jennifer Spencer of the Bradford County Humane Society made a presentation at the commissioners meeting on the upcoming Shop for Pete event, which will take place on Nov. 17 at the Tops supermarket in Wysox.
During Shop for Pete, area citizens are asked to shop for various supplies for the Bradford County Humane Society's animal shelter during their visit to the supermarket, such as dog and cat food, cat litter, and bleach and other cleaning supplies, Spencer said. Those who have purchased the supplies then drop them off in the animal shelter's bin when they exit from the store.
Each year, the shelter designates one its dogs that are up for adoption as "Pete," and Pete serves as the mascot for the "Shop for Pete" fundraiser.
This year, the shelter has also designated one of its cats that are up for adoption as "Penney," in order to remind the public that the shelter also needs supplies for the cats that are housed there, Spencer said.
During the "Shop for Pete" event, cat lovers might wish to "shop for Penney," she said.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.