[Hpn] Mental health budget cuts hit close to home;Massachusetts;11/30/01

Morgan W. Brown norsehorse@hotmail.com
Fri, 30 Nov 2001 15:17:55 -0500

-------Forwarded article-------

Friday, November 30, 2001
MetroWest Daily News <http://www.metrowestdailynews.com>
Local News section
Mental health budget cuts hit close to home

By Michael Kunzelman
Friday, November 30, 2001

BOSTON - Dolores Guerrant and her children were homeless before they moved 
to Sage House, a Framingham group home for women recovering from addiction 
and mental illness.

"Sage House saved my life," said Guerrant, who has lived there for the past 
10 months. "I just don't know where I would be without it."

But deep cuts to the state Department of Mental Health's budget may force 
the South Middlesex Opportunity Council to close the home, said Kim Manning, 
the Framingham agency's director of clinical services.

"I don't think the average person living out in the suburbs knows how 
important these programs are and how many people they help," Manning added. 
"If they did, they wouldn't let it happen."

To protest the cuts, Guerrant and other Sage House residents traveled to 
Boston yesterday to join a rally outside the State House. Chanting and 
holding signs, about 500 mental-health advocates, providers and clients 
chided the Legislature for slashing an estimated $28.1 million out of DMH's 

"In our wildest dreams, we never imagined that we would be dealing with 
budget cuts of this magnitude," said Elizabeth Funk, president and CEO of 
the Natick-based Mental Health and Substance Abuse Corporations of 

Faced with the cuts, DMH plans to lay off up to 470 workers at state 
hospitals, eliminate 170 beds at adult in-patient facilities and discharge 
58 children from state-run facilities by Jan. 1.

Non-profit agencies that rely heavily on DMH funds, like SMOC and the 
Wayside Youth and Family Support Network, may have to wait until after 
acting Gov. Jane Swift issues her budget vetoes before they learn how the 
cuts will affect their programs.

Beth Fleahman, who coordinates a Wayside-sponsored support group for parents 
of mentally ill children, also has a 15-year-old son who suffers from a mood 
disorder. She said her son, a student at the Victor School in Acton, could 
lose access to DMH services if the cuts go through.

"He may end up going into a group home or another residential placement," 
she said. "It's definitely unfair."

John Auerbach, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, 
warned that the cuts could lead to a sharp rise in homelessness, substance 
abuse and suicides among the mentally ill.

"The cuts create not just a crisis in mental health, they create a crisis in 
public health as well," he told the gathering.

Funk urged the crowd to lobby their local lawmakers to restore the money in 
the form of a supplemental budget.

"We know that these minor savings in the short-term will be a very large 
public cost in the long-term," she added.

Dominick Ianno, a spokesman for Administration and Finance Secretary Stephen 
Crosby, said the Swift administration hopes to restore at least $6 million 
worth of "legally mandated (DMH) spending" that the Legislature's budget 
failed to fund.

"Clearly," said state Rep. Deborah Blumer, D-Framingham, "we need more 
mental health services and not less. I think we have an obligation to 
restore those cuts as a priority."

During a press briefing yesterday, House Speaker Thomas Finneran left the 
door open to restoring money for human services, including mental health 
programs. But he rejected Swift's claim that lawmakers failed to fund some 
programs and agencies at legally mandated levels.

"Not all (programs) are created equal," he added. "You have to focus and you 
have to pick and choose."


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-------End of forward-------

Morgan <norsehorse@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA

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