We read in the papers that the recession is over and things are slowly returning to normal. That may be true in some sectors, but we are still waiting to see the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” in the funding for behavioral health and rehabilitation services. In fact, in Portage County, we have received bad news from one of our principle funders, the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Portage County, after its funds were reduced by the state. They will be cutting our funding by 5% immediately for a total cut of $214,527.
What does that mean for Coleman in Portage County? While the specifics are yet to be determined, careful study and tremendous thought is going into how best to make the necessary cuts to our budget while maintaining the high quality of services we provide. There will be staff cuts, and a reduction of services provided, though the details are yet to be announced.
Looking ahead is even more daunting. According to Hal Farrier, Executive Director of the MHRB of Portage County, “We also may not have seen the last of the state cuts.” His staff believes they may need to cut as much as another 20% for next year’s budget.
For those of us at Coleman in Portage County, it’s easy to be upset with our Mental Health and Recovery Board. We should remember, though, that they absorbed the lion’s share of the funding cuts (to the tune of $1.6 million since January) and have made difficult cuts to their own budget. We should instead keep the lines of communication open with our state leaders. We must impress upon them the importance of funding for mental health and rehabilitation… not just once, but every chance we get. This is true not just for Portage County, but for all our counties, as they are all facing similar budget issues.
So where does this leave us? In his message announcing the budget cuts to the Portage County Staff, Nelson Burns, CEO of Coleman Professional Services said, “Our vision addresses Coleman’s desire to provide services to individuals and families regardless of their ability to pay. We will not abandon this important vision. Maybe we can call this a ‘bump’ in the road or a ‘detour.’ I hope you join with me in remaining strong in our vision and our quest to grow and diversify our revenue so we can help those who are not eligible to pay for services.
We appreciate you all joining with us to support Coleman and its vision as we make difficult decisions during these difficult times.