Philadelphia officials say Corbett budget is disastrous for social services

    After combing through the details of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget, Philadelphia city officials are upset. They say the potential cutbacks would devastate human services.

    Philadelphia health commissioner Donald Schwarz had a long list of services that are on the chopping block – mental-health services for the uninsured, treatment services for drug and alcohol abuse, after-school programs, housing support for families, and the list goes on.

    Most of the funds for the city’s human services come from the state. Schwarz calculates that if the budget is passed, the city will lose $41 million in social service funding — representing a 20 percent cut.

    Corbett’s budget proposes doling money out via a block grant, which could mean more light flexibility in terms of how the money is spent. Schwarz said, however, that upside is more than offset by the size of the cuts. “Creating flexibility with 20 percent fewer dollars is a recipe for disaster for Philadelphia,” he said.

    Schwarz emphasized that services for the mentally ill would be hit especially hard under the proposed budget.

    “The cut to community mental health accounts for two-thirds of all the dollars cut in the governor’s block grant for human services,” said Schwarz. “That is an enormous budget line, and we frankly don’t know how we are going to live with that big a cut.”

    He says many gains achieved in the past decades – such as reducing the city’s homeless population and helping those with mental illness live and work in the community — would be threatened.

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