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Funding cuts hurt neediest families

Some of Harrison County’s neediest families are being hurt by cuts or limitations in federal funding.
‘For the first time in recent years, we had to cancel appointments for the Energy Assistance Program last week,’ said Shirley Raymond, director of Harrison County Community Services, yesterday. ‘Funds were depleted. We canceled over 100 appointments.’
Raymond said unless more funds are released at the federal level for the state-administered program, ‘we will be unable to process any new applications for that program.’
So far this season, 678 households have received help versus 742 last season, Raymond said.
Part of the problem, she said, is a ‘dramatic increase in utilities, particularly for bulk fuel.’
She also said Gov. Mitch Daniels’ charge to cut the Family and Social Services Administration’s (FSSA) 10-percent growth rate in half has created a wait-and-see attitude as individual programs are receiving notice of changes.
‘On Jan. 26, we received notice that a ‘locally driven’ planning process for children and family services will no longer have funding in the 2006 fiscal year,’ Raymond said. ‘As of that date (Jan. 26), the administration plans to keep current contracts in force. Those contracts end June 30.’
The Step Ahead process has been in place since 1991 to assure efficient use of funds that are coordinated across funding streams, Raymond said. ‘We have developed program models that provide positive outcomes,’ she said. ‘Through the Step Ahead process, we have developed Habitat, case management models, a locally-driven Community Housing Development Organization to address critical affordable housing needs, offered low-cost to no-cost training opportunities, and provided networks of service delivery that enhance quality of existing services including child care quality and availability.
‘However, it may be that since Step Ahead is a process rather than a program, it won’t be missed as a funding block.’
The McKinney-Vento and Healthy Family/Healthy Child programs have no funding source that has been identified beyond this school year, Raymond said. South Harrison and North Harrison schools case-management programs both use the same model of case work to assist high-risk families and their children to provide positive outcomes in education.
‘We’re not giving up,’ Raymond said. ‘We’re trying to work through an agency to see what can be done.
‘It’s not a pretty sight.’
In an announcement last week, E. Mitchell Roob Jr., secretary of the Indiana FSSA, said, ‘The State of Indiana and the FSSA in particular are in a dire fiscal emergency.
‘FSSA faces tremendous obstacles: reigning in on spending of nearly $7 billion in federal and state funds, serving a growing population of people eligible for Medicaid, and making decisions without appropriate clinical or financial data.’
Although Medicaid projected expenditures exceed 10 percent in the upcoming years, Gov. Daniels has charged Roob with reducing the growth rate to five percent. To meet this challenge and guarantee needy Hoosiers receive support services entitled to them, FSSA must re-design its model of care. ‘The least compassionate course is to allow the system to become insolvent,’ Roob said. In the re-design of FSSA, the agency will be reconstructed as a healthcare financing agency. FSSA will focus on serving four primary product lines: Maternal and Child Health; Aging; Disability and Rehabilitative, and Mental Health. Many of the services provided will fall underneath the umbrella of Medicaid.
A vital component in transforming these agencies will be in the development of ‘core competencies.’ FSSA will reinvent how services are performed, mend the contract management process, and improve personnel management. ‘This re-design will ensure that services are available for the elderly, disabled, children and their mothers, and others in future years,’ Roob said.
At this point, Raymond said LifeSpan, which provides multiple services, has more than 350 people in Harrison County on waiting lists for in-home services. Since July in Harrison County, a waiting list has been developed for home-bound meals. Forty-seven people have been turned away for transportation services.
But Raymond said Harrison County is prepared to deal with these challenges.
‘As a community, we have a highly coordinated service delivery system with dedicated professionals, and we will continue to work together to support vulnerable families and children,’ Raymond said.
‘From correspondence with other directors, we will continue to prioritize needs and work together to find resources to address those needs, accepting the challenges of the future.’