In Sampson and Duplin counties, alone, that amounts to the loss of dozens of community support services for both adults and children.
Ken Jones, director of Eastpointe, the mental health agency which serves Sampson, Duplin, Wayne and Lenoir counties, has delivered the disturbing news to governing boards in all counties, alerting them to the budget cuts and what those cuts will mean to the thousands who utilize not only Eastpointe but the other support services in each community.
Last fiscal year, Eastpointe served 12,000 clients in its four-county region, with total revenues of $26 million. Of that total, $12.9 million was state and federal funds, with the remainder being local dollars and Medicaid reimbursements.
This year, with the state wielding its sharp ax, the mental health agency and many community support services have been hit hard with cuts, some that have meant the total elimination of programs.
In all, 15 to 22 percent in cuts have been mandated, with another 5 percent to service funds being whittled away.
Local agencies which evaluate patients and find them community treatment are falling by the wayside; in-home services are either being cut or reduced to nothing; and lower Medicaid reimbursements will make it difficult for both individuals and families as well as providers.
What all this really means is simply this: Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of mentally ill patients — adults and children — have virtually been kicked to the curb when it comes to many of the services they have relied upon.
Services like Easter Seals UCP-North, Peterkin and Associates and Carolina Choice in Sampson County will be eliminated, along with several more. Tri County Youth Services, Alpha Omega Health, Christian’s House of Hope and the Lawson House, among others, are programs that have been axed in Duplin.
All these programs were beneficial to our neighbors, friends, perhaps even our own families, all human beings who are suffering from mental health issues.
Without question, for many of these individuals, there is no longer a safety net short of emergency rooms and mental hospitals.
While we understand the state is in a terrible budget quandary that they aren’t likely to dig themselves out of for years, and while we realize cuts have to be made, what we don’t understand is why lawmakers seem to find it easiest to lower the boom on those who often can’t fight for themselves first and have fewer politically powerful supporters than many other agencies.
Lawmakers, who have revisited this issue before, need to take another look at these cuts and the serious impact it has on the mentally ill, and they need to search harder for money to restore some of these programs that so many depend on day in and day out.