HUNTINGDON - The state Office of Developmental Programs will impose a 6 percent cut next month to mental health and mental retardation (MH/MR) services.
The state cuts go into effect Nov. 15 and are part of an ongoing effort to balance the state budget, MH/MR Administrator Chris Wysocki, whose Juniata Valley Tri-County MH/MR Program serves Huntingdon, Mifflin and Juniata counties, told the Huntingdon County Commissioners on Tuesday.
"I appreciate the (Corbett administration's) policy of no new taxes," Commissioner Connie Kough Pittenger said. "But it will be a challenge to provide human services, or not."
Commissioner Chairman William W. Hoover asked if this meant that locally, MH/MR would cut services or seek county funds to compensate. Both were a possibility but that the full impact is not yet known, Wysocki said.
"You get into a situation where agencies are not willing to provide services where the issues are more complicated and more costly," said Wysocki.
MH/MR services will be cut by varying amounts. The hardest-hit program, vocational rehabilitation, will see a 26 percent reduction. These programs help people with disabilities achieve and maintain employment.
"If you had to take a 26 percent reduction in your groceries, people like me would be losing a lot of weight," Wysocki said.
Historically, the goal of these programs was to restore a person's ability to its previous level. Now there is a competing ideology that these programs should aim to prepare people to be independent, particularly in terms of employment, Wysocki said.
In Huntingdon County, only Skills of Central Pennsylvania Inc. provides vocational rehabilitation services.
"Some people may say that churches or other community organizations can pick up where the state leaves off," said Pittenger. "But I think you'll find they are already being extended beyond their means, too."