Saturday, April 19, 2014

Human Services spending debated

County director warns years of state budget cuts are hurting homeless, others.

May 02. 2013 11:51PM

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WILKES-BARRE —After five straight years of cuts in state grant funding, Luzerne County Human Services chief Mary Dysleski found herself doing some wishful thinking Thursday.

“It would be nice if during this budget process they (state legislators) decided to give us more money,” Dysleski, the acting director, said. “At least restore us to where we were five years ago.”

Dysleski said the county received $18.5 million in state block grant funding for 2012-13, and Gov. Tom Corbett did not reduce that allocation in his proposed 2013-14 budget. The legislature must now approve the budget.

Dysleski said funding cuts — coupled with increasing fixed costs such as utilities and employee benefits — have resulted in a reduction of services.

“Even if we’re approved for last year’s allocation, it still makes it difficult,” she said. “That translates to less, or different, services for people.”

During two hearings held Tuesday and Thursday, Dysleski said agency representatives offered suggestions, as did consumers of services and interested people from the general public.

Dysleski said many of the concerns centered on Luzerne County’s homeless population. She said talks have been held regarding the establishment of a centralized homeless shelter — a one-stop shop for people in need of shelter, food, clothing, counseling and other services, such as help with job searches.

“Without a central shelter, many of the homeless are landing in prisons or hospitals,” she said. “These are homeless people and people with mental health or intellectual disabilities.”

Dysleski said there was discussion about finding new sources of revenue. She said her office will look into the application process for gaming fund grants.

“Maybe if we can work together and submit a joint application, we can be eligible for some of that funding,” Dysleski said.

In 2012-13, county mental health services shared in $11.3 million of the $18.5 million block grant funding. Intellectual disabilities services received $4.4 million; homeless assistance, $717,500; children and youth services, $572,600; drug-and-alcohol, $1.1 million; human services and support, $258,600, and county block grant administration, $163,600.

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