Most years, county human services departments operate on tight budgets, anticipating few funding increases from the state.
But this year, Adams and York counties are bracing for a significant cut in the state funds that go to mental-health services, and officials say those cuts are so severe that some programs, and possibly jobs, will have to be eliminated.
Steve Warren, county administrator of York/Adams Mental Health Mental Retardation, said he is expecting to see a 20-percent reduction in funding from the state, which will amount to about $4.1 million less than last year
"I've been the administrator here for 28 years, and we've never experienced this drastic of a cut," Warren said.
When the state budget was first proposed, Adams County commissioners said they were anticipating more flexibility in how state money could be spent on human services. Commissioner Marty Qually said last week it sounded like a good idea until the proposed 20-percent cut was added to the equation.
"With a 20-percent cut, the plan is not very flexible," Qually said. "This was supposed to be a good thing, and now we have the cut."
York/Adams Mental Health Mental Retardation covers a wide range of mental-health services, addiction-recovery programs, residential care and more, which will likely be impacted.
At this point, it's difficult to say for sure how many clients will be impacted, and how many, if any, employees will lose their jobs, but Warren said the cuts will be severe as the department is forced to tighten its belt.
If the 20-percent cuts are part of the final state budget, then York/Adams outpatient treatment funding will be cut by 20 percent, and social-rehab adult-mental-health services will see funding cuts, as well, Warren said.
Several vacant case-management positions will be eliminated, as well as the Warmline - an anonymous, peer-support telephone service. Funding provided by the department toward hospice programs will be decreased 30 percent.
Peer-specialist services will be cut, too, and some residential housing-support programs will be closed, impacting about 30 clients, Warren said.
"We're usually dealing with a 3-percent cost-of-living increase, or no dollar increase," Warren said. "We've never had anything like this."
When the Harrisburg State Hospital shut its doors several years ago, programs like the York/Adams Mental Health Mental Retardation took on more clients who had been served by the hospital, and those programs were given extra funds by the state to support them, Warren said. With the proposed cuts, many of those clients in Adams and York counties will be impacted.
"We see that as a broken promise on the part of the Department of Public Welfare," Warren said.
Warren said the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and several advocacy organizations are actively lobbying for the funds to be reinstated, but in the meantime he is planning for next year as if these cuts will happen.
The state has a July 1 deadline to adopt the final 2012-2013 fiscal-year budget.