Fairfax County officials have recommended approximately $5 million in reductions to services and personnel in an effort to fill holes in the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board’s (CSB) FY2013 budget.
The CSB, a county agency that coordinates and provides substance abuse treatment, mental health services and care for adults and children with intellectual disabilities, was faced with an $8 million budget shortfall in FY2012 and a $9.5 million shortfall for FY2013.
But money from the upcoming FY2012 budget carryover process could close the CSB’s remaining $2.6 million shortfall for last year, and cover $3.5 million in personnel costs and fringe benefits for FY2013, shrinking this year’s shortfall to a still-substantial $6 million.
The county’s Human Services Council, which had been tasked with reviewing the CSB’s controversial May budget management plan, presented its findings and and stakeholders – – during a two-hour meeting of the Board of Supervisors Human Services Committee Tuesday afternoon.
“Without these services we recognize that there is a massive number of people in the county that will be impacted in very different ways – some very burdensome,” said Cathy Hudgins, Hunter Mill District supervisor and chairman of the board’s Human Services Committee. “We’re being asked to consider more than just a small sum.”
Treatment Centers Could Stay Open
Of the 13 recommended cuts in the CSB’s management plan, the HSC urged supervisors to continue funding four in particular.
Officials didn’t agree with the CSB’s recommendation to close New Horizons, a facility for adults with mental and substance abuse disorders in Alexandria, and Sojourn House, a residential mental health treatment center for female youths.
“Reductions in these services can undermine their recovery from mental illness or substance abuse disorders, or their functional gains achieved through years of sustained intervention and assistance,” said Mark Sites, the CSB’s new chairman, in a statement.
The HSC also asked supervisors to maintain funding for Gartlan Center Emergency Services near Mount Vernon. The CSB’s recommendation to cut money would have resulted in consolidation of emergency mental health response to a more central location mid-county, a prospect that upset Fairfax County Police Officers in the Mount Vernon area.
Finally, the HSC recommended that the county continue funding the daytime shift of Mobile Crisis Services, which provide psychiatric evaluations and crisis intervention to those in need.
Infant and Toddler Connection
HSC Chairman Kevin Bell told supervisors that they needed to advocate for state funding for early intervention services in the county’s Infant Toddler Connection (ITC) program, which provides evaluations and help to children up to age three who have a developmental delay or are at risk of getting one.
The ITC program is facing a $1 million shortfall in FY2013 in light of a projected increased demand for services.
“There’s really an obligation on the state to meet its obligation,” said HSC Chairman Kevin Bell. “It’s not Fairfax County’s obligation – it’s the Commonwealth’s obligation.”
According to the HSC’s presentation, there is funding in the current CSB budget for an average of 988 children and families per month. But in FY2012, an average of 1,155 children and families a month needed help.
There is an $8.4 million shortfall statewide for ITC services, Bell said, urging that supervisors draft a letter to Gov. Bob McDonnell requesting full funding of the program for FY2013 and FY2014.
But based on current state funding practices, money from the state would be gone by mid-February, Bell said, so measures such as waiting lists and delaying services may still be necessary.
The HSC also recommended that supervisors set aside $500,000 in case efforts for state funding fail.
Employment and Day Services for FCPS Grads
Much of the public input the HSC received was about employment and services to former and current graduates of Fairfax County Public Schools with intellectual disabilities.
The HSC recommended using $1.8 million of during the FY2013 budget process. That money would cover all graduates currently enrolled in the program and 19 at-risk graduates.
But 45 more graduates will have to wait for openings in the program or for an additional $725,000 to be identified before they receive services.
Bell said he worried that some parents thought of employment and day services as an “entitlement,” but Hudgins was quick to respond, not wanting to single anyone out.
“These families come [to the county] because they care about their children, and we provide a great service,” she said.
The CSB agreed with the HSC’s recommendation to use reserve money.
The HSC also recommended cutting $60,000 from the CSB’s $146,688 contract with CrisisLink for FY2013, the county’s suicide prevention hotline.
That reduction would maintain more than half of the contract, but the presentation noted that it could “diminish the regional capacity or limit the availability of the service.”
HSC recommended that the county pursue other peer-run volunteer option that could provide a similar range of services, including but not limited to the Virginia 211 system.
Finally, Bell said county supervisors needed to work more closely with the CSB to ensure that budget troubles like these don’t happen again. “There were unfulfilled expectations that they would be able to raise revenues that they were not [able to raise],” he said.
Sites assured the board that his agency had the appropriate measures. “[The CSB] has taken very seriously the magnitude of the current budget crisis and the difficulties it has created within our county government and community,” he said. “We have established a schedule to provide quarterly written reports to the Board of Supervisors on the status of CSB fiscal and program progress.”
The board will vote Tuesday, July 31, on a motion to approve a public hearing on budget carryover. That hearing would be Sept. 11.