Pa. approach to human services funding worries county officials

    Counties are treading lightly when it comes to the governor’s budget proposal for Pennsylvania’s human services programs.

    The proposed block grant would cut by 20 percent funding for programs such as mental health services, substance use disorder programs, and homeless assistance – while giving counties more flexibility in how they pay for the services.

    But advocates say that new leeway could mean their programs are underfunded by the counties.

    Charlie Folks is director of counseling at a substance abuse hospital in Montgomery County.

    He worries drug and alcohol programs could be squeezed for more money if the state doesn’t hold the counties to supporting such services.

    “It can place drug and alcohol further down on the counties’ list of priorities, which could result in cuts greater than 20 percent,” Folks said.

    Doug Hill, head of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, says counties will be able to cut costs in a number of ways if state funding comes in the form of a block grant.

    “Conceptually, counties still do support, strongly support. block granting.” Hill said. “There are some practical issues though.”

    He says counties still want to walk the Corbett administration back from the 20 percent cut proposed, and lobby for a later start date for the new funding rules.

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