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Mental health board hears appeals from officials

FEBRUARY 9, 2010

Mental health board hears appeals from officials

The following article appeared February 9, 2010 in The Toledo Blade. ABLE Executive Director Joe Tafelski was quoted in the story. Read below or view the contents on The Blade's Web site.

By TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Some of the agencies that depend on the Lucas County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services for funding took turns yesterday appealing to be spared cuts that could be ordered to balance the board's 2011 budget.

Among them was ABLE, or Advocates for Basic Legal Equality Inc. The agency used the $100,000 this year from the levy-funded mental-health board to help disabled people recover in court more than $900,000 in Social Security benefits in the last six months.

"My concern is what's going to happen with those clients. That's money to pay rent," said Joe Tafelski, executive director of ABLE. He said that service, performed by a lawyer and a paralegal, would end if the funding dries up.
 

The following article appeared February 9, 2010 in The Toledo Blade. ABLE Executive Director Joe Tafelski was quoted in the story. Read below or view the contents on The Blade's Web site.


Mental health board hears appeals from officials

By TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Some of the agencies that depend on the Lucas County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services for funding took turns yesterday appealing to be spared cuts that could be ordered to balance the board's 2011 budget.

Among them was ABLE, or Advocates for Basic Legal Equality Inc. The agency used the $100,000 this year from the levy-funded mental-health board to help disabled people recover in court more than $900,000 in Social Security benefits in the last six months.

"My concern is what's going to happen with those clients. That's money to pay rent," said Joe Tafelski, executive director of ABLE. He said that service, performed by a lawyer and a paralegal, would end if the funding dries up.

The mental-health board, which has a budget of about $63 million - of which 61 percent is mandated Medicaid spending - is planning for cuts this year of up to $3.5 million.

That's a worst-case scenario that depends on whether Congress renews stimulus funding that subsidized the agency's Medicaid obligation since late 2008.

About 75 people representing area mental-health and social-service agencies met for the "board-to-board" presentation yesterday in the downtown Toledo Lucas County Public Library.

Debbie Apgar, the executive director of The Learning Club of Toledo, a program that provides after-school programming to 30 emotionally disturbed children whose behavior has gotten them kicked out of other after-school programs, said she started four years ago with a budget of $100,000 and now gets about $74,000. She said she could get the spending down to about $56,000.

Children receive six hours of tutoring a week from certified teachers, with transportation provided. She said they are surpassing their goal of having 70 percent advance one grade level in reading and math.

"They come into the Learning Club and find out they can achieve," Ms. Apgar said.

Jay Salvage, president of the board of Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime of Lucas County, said the approximately $190,000 his agency receives supports a program of providing counselors who screen Lucas County jail inmates for drug, alcohol, and mental-health problems.

"It would be a loss" if the program was defunded. "You'd see a likely continuation of the criminal behavior that got [inmates] into jail in the first place," Mr. Salvage said.

Marcia Langenderfer, executive director of St. Paul's Community Center, said money received from the mental-health board helps fund the Representative Payee Program that manages accounts for about 600 people who receive Social Security disability checks.

"It would be truly devastating to our clients if there were any cuts," Ms. Langenderfer said.

Lucas County Commission President Pete Gerken said he welcomed the board's open approach with its member agencies, which he said is a change from the past.

"It's a difficult process," he said.

Mr. Gerken called on agencies to dig deeper into the administrative parts of their budgets. He said there should be more involvement with other agencies, such as the Economic Opportunity Planning Association, Head Start, and Lucas County Children Services Board, to address duplication and focus on programs that leverage other sources of funding.

Tom Bartlett, the associate executive director of business operations and strategic planning, said the mental-health board's discretionary funding has fallen from $20.8 million in 2008 to a projected $16.5 million in the fiscal year that will begin July 1.

Jacqueline Martin, executive director of the mental health board, said the board's goal is to decide on its 2010 budget in April and May.