Human Services Budget Cuts Will Have Long-Term Impact
By: Brent Runyon
The Falmouth Human Services department will incur budget cuts in the coming fiscal year that are anticipated to affect services for years to come.
“These are the most serious cuts I’ve ever experienced in my nearly 30 years as a counselor here,” said Freda (Freddie) Diamond, a social worker.
The biggest loss for the department will be Ms. Diamond herself, who will retire in April after 28 years. Her position will be frozen at least through Fiscal Year 2011. Ms. Diamond is one of only two full-time employees and sees 28 clients.
“The primary thing I do is provide counseling,” she told the Falmouth Human Services committee Wednesday. “I provide services to a range of clients, including those with severe mental illness, as well as clients who need help with lifestyle and relationships.”
Chairman Brenda B. Swain asked if her clients would be absorbed by other counselors in the department.
“Most of my clients have health insurance, so some will be able to access other services, and some will be transferred to other clinicians within the agency,” she said. She was concerned that the cost of copayments and the difficulty of transferring to a new counselor would keep some patients away.
In July 2010, the beginning of the next fiscal year, town Social Worker Suzanne K. Hauptmann is scheduled to increase her position by eight hours to 32 hours per week. Ms. Hauptmann will provide services to all age groups. Currently her clients are youths and families.
Falmouth Human Services Director Karen M. Cardeira negotiated the cuts with Town Manager Robert L. Whritenour Jr. as part of a $1 million town-wide budget reduction in advance of 2010 Spring Town Meeting.
“The impact of these decisions on the Human Services Department and the services we provide will be monumental,” Ms. Cardeira wrote in her report to the committee, which was presented by Ms. Diamond.
“Please bear in mind that these changes are a significant improvement from the original cuts [Mr. Whritenour] proposed, and I believe represent the best option for the department considering the circumstances.”
During this spring, Ms. Cardeira wrote, “the entire department will reevaluate... what services will be offered, to whom and for how long.”
Other cuts include an average eight percent reduction in the funding Falmouth Human Services provides to nonprofit agencies.
Those agencies are Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Cape Cod Child Development, Cape Cod Human Services, Cape Abilities, Community Health Center, Consumer Assistance Council, Fairwinds Clubhouse, Independence House, Falmouth Service Center, Gosnold Clinic, Housing Assistance Corporation, Salvation Army, Sight Loss Services, and South Coast Legal Services.
The town will provide a total of $139,153 in support of those programs in 2009, and is currently budgeting $121,852 for 2010.
Each program receives between $1,000 and $24,000 annually. Cape Cod Child Development receives the largest amount. In 2009, the early childhood education program received $23,400 from the town, and is now budgeted $20,534 in 2010, an 11 percent decrease.
All nonprofits’ contracts are scheduled to be cut to varying degrees between five and 22 percent in Fiscal Year 2011.
Other staffing changes include the elimination of a part-time office assistant, and an increase in hours for principal office assistant Cathy Marques. That change, which must first be approved by Town Meeting, will reduce the weekly hours by four and a half.
That change is not likely to save the town any money, however. Ms. Marques said she makes more money than the other office assistant because she has worked for the town longer.
Budget meetings will continue between Mr. Whritenour and department heads on Monday.
Ms. Cardeira wrote in her report that four of the six large town employee unions declined to meet with Mr. Whritenour to discuss eliminating a two percent raise due in January. The raise will happen as a matter of contract, she wrote.
Falmouth Human Services counselors have provided free counseling to residents since 1975, when Town Meeting members voted to create the department.
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