QUEENSBURY - Drastic state funding cuts are looming for regional Mental Health programs and assistance for the developmentally disabled - unless Warren and Washington county governments make up the difference, an area community services official warned Monday.
Rob York, director of the Inter-County Office of Community Services, addressed a rare joint session of Warren and Washington supervisors Monday.
York said the state's primary funding source for the counties' various social and vocational programs, now serving citizens with mental health issues and developmental disabilities, will likely be slashed dramatically.
This primary state funding source accounts for nearly half of the Community Services organization's total budget in both counties. The agency outsources the majority of its programs to local mental health facilities.
York said that for decades, the mental health programs in Warren and Washington counties enjoyed robust state financial support, far more generous than most all counties across the state.
He said while most counties received 50-50 matching funds from the state, Washington County had through 2008 received 97 percent funding, and Warren County, 87 percent state funding - and this amount is scheduled to drop drastically, York said.
The funding reform is part of Gov. David Paterson's sweeping budgetary cuts and would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2009.
"The two counties have historically enjoyed reduced rates," York said. "This legislation will require the counties to pay a 50 percent share just like everyone else."
Without Warren County agreeing to make up for a $206,189 shortfall and Washington County chipping in an additional $211,084, numerous contracts with agencies which provide vocational training and job placement to people with mental and developmental challenges would be in jeopardy, York said.
York warned that other government cuts in support could also occur, nearly doubling the potential funding shortfall the counties are facing.
Office of Community Services Deputy Director Pam Kaiser told supervisors that many of the vocational programs are not state mandated but they play an important role in society, she said.
York said these programs are vital for the citizens they serve, and they ultimately save the county money by keeping people out of jails and hospitals.
Queensbury Supervisor-at-Large Michael O'Connor, chairman of the Warren County Mental Health Committee, echoed York's sentiments.
"I hope everyone can see the value of the services of the programs we're talking about here," O'Connor said. "The problem being is that once a budget is passed, it is basically set in stone."
If the programs go unfunded, bicounty contracts with several institutions like Liberty House and CWI will take severe hits as well. The contracts represent a large portion of the income of the nine mental health facilities now contracted.
"I think it is obvious we don't have any extra money in our budgets to deal with this," Washington County Board of Supervisors Chairman Donald Wilbur said in response to York's plea.
The joint session adjourned with no resolution, but supervisors said that they expect the state legislation will be adopted within the next two weeks.
Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe stressed financial diligence.
"We appreciate anything the agency can do to reduce costs," Monroe said to York.