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TRUMBULL COUNTY Cuts affect alcohol, health services



Published: Tue, May 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Services will be cut, counselors will be let go and waiting lists are expected to develop at many agencies as the county board trims about $1.5 million from the $15 million it handed out annually for mental health counseling and drug addiction treatment, officials say.

Guests to the annual banquet of the Trumbull County Board of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health tonight will be dining with the knowledge of a lean year ahead.

Since a new levy for the board died at the poles in November, agency officials have been warned to expect cutbacks in financial year 2001, which starts in July.

"I'll be the one crying," said Beverly-Jean Pollard, head of the 21-year-old Warren Urban Minority Alcohol, Drug Abuse Outreach Program, which had been in all city schools. Next year, it will be in three.

In the last few years, the board had been spending $750,000 per year out of an accumulated surplus, now gone, said Richard Darkangelo, the board's executive director. That money leveraged another $800,000 in state and federal funds for the board, he said.

And that bought psychiatric counseling, case management and medication for the seriously mentally ill, spaces in drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, and after-school activities and programs for children.

"We don't contract with services that are superfluous," Darkangelo said. "Every agency fills a need."

Another cutback: Valley Counseling Services of Warren, the largest single contractor with the county board, provides treatment for 3,000 mentally ill, mostly indigent, adults and children. It has been warned to expect a reduction in funding of $250,000, out of a total budget of $5.9 million, said Alvin Beynon, its president and CEO.

As a result, the number of counselors on staff has been reduced from 98 to 92 and programs that put counselors in the Trumbull County Jail and county juvenile justice center are being eliminated.

"Some people we served in the past, we can't see them now," Beynon said. "If we don't see them, they don't get seen."

The reduced funding also will be felt in a longer wait for services, he added.

Darkangelo said longer waiting times at the various agencies will ultimately result in fewer clients, as addicts relapse or the mentally ill give up in getting treatment.

Effect on homeless: Cuts also are being felt at the York Avenue Church of God Treatment Center in the city, which has eliminated two caseworkers who took mostly homeless clients to meetings and group therapy.

The forecast budget reduction of $10,000 to $20,000 also resulted in the departure of one of the two counselors at the small rehab center, which works primarily with crack addicts.

"We had to tell him we couldn't supply him with his salary," said Dr. Edward Amicucci, the clinical director.

Other organizations are still optimistic that the budget shortfall might be met with grants from other sources.

Jean Forbes, the executive director of Rebecca Williams Community Center, said her staff is working on finding the estimated $14,000 needed to keep the lineup of preschool, after-school, teen and summer programs. Still, they might feel the crunch from another direction, she said.

"To the extent that they are cutting services back, we anticipate there will be a problem with children whose families are not getting the services they need," she added.

The Trumbull County Board of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health also is expected to announce a new name at tonight's dinner.

siff@vindy.com




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