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County Residents Plead for Human Services Funds

Monday's was the first of three public hearings on the Community Services Board budget.

The Fairfax County Human Services Council heard emotional testimony during  a Monday night hearing from residents pleading for continued funding in a troubled human services budget.

The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB), which provides care and support to county residents with mental and physical disabilities and substance abuse issues, faces an $8 million hole in its $150 million budget for 2012 and an additional $9.5 million shortfall for 2013.

About 20 people spoke before the council during the hour-long hearing.

The CSB’s management plan would close the gaps by shutting down some facilities, cutting some services and creating wait lists for others.

The plan delays Employment and Day Services for 64 graduates of the class of 2012. Many residents worried about their loved ones who need these services but would be stuck at home alone or with one other person.

Lynn Ruiz’s 19-year-old daughter has mental disabilities and will graduate from her vocational program in 2014. But Ruiz said she would fear her daughter’s graduation if the money for employment and day services disappears.

“She wants to work at T.J. Maxx,” Ruiz said. “She wants to buy all of those stylish clothes she sees in the magazines.

“To cut funding means to slash their futures. Don’t balance the budget on their backs.”

Debra Tinker also urged the council to support funding for employment and day services. Tinker’s son Matt, who had autism and was enrolled in the county’s day programs, died in September after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

“The day program that he was in — Horizons in Woodbridge — made the last nine months of Matt’s life pure joy,” she said. “Our children deserve a life like yours.”

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Judith Dittman spoke on behalf of Alternative House, a refuge for children faced with abuse and homelessness.

“Five years ago, when a young person needed help with substance abuse issues … it took about two weeks to get them in for an assessment,” Dittman said. Last week, a teenager in need was told they had to wait until late July for an appointment, she said.

Nathaniel Ford, a self-proclaimed product of these services and recovered addict and alcoholic, was one of the last to speak before the council.

“If you cut some of this money out, some people are going to die,” he said. “This is not a game. We’re playing with people’s lives here.”

With help from the services provided through the CSB, Ford is now a productive member of society, he said.

“Today I have a home,” he said. “I’m a taxpayer, and I’m very proud. Give us a chance.”

Council chair Kevin Bell encouraged residents to submit their statements, and stressed that none of it would be taken lightly.

“This is serious stuff,” he said.

Bell urged concerned citizens to attend the next public hearing, which will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday in rooms 206 A and B of the Pennino Buidling at 12011 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA.

Residents wishing to speak before the Human Services Committee can email Dwight Curtis at dwight.curtis@fairfaxcounty.gov.

Comments may also be submitted online through a county survey.

Jerre S. Thomas, MSgt. USMC/ret. June 05, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Am sure many in this program are deserving and redcuing the funding would impact many of these residents, however, I can think of one household in Fairfax county, grossing nearly $250K annually and they recieve financial benefits from the County due to their son's disability. Maybe the key is to better target the funds that are available.
Michele June 05, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Cutting funding here ruins lives! how can someone in a mental health crisis be told to wait months for help? They can't! It is not an option! How can you tell a drug addict pleading for help to get their lives together to go away until funding becomes available? How can you tell people that WANT to work, but need help to get hired and trained to do so that you can't help? How can you tell a Mentally Ill individual that there is no doctor available to help them get the meds they need to stay stable, off the streets and in a job? Think about it! What if one of those people was YOUR family member???
Wendy June 05, 2012 at 04:11 PM
I think that ultimately, if the county can bail out the CSB, then they should. The real victims of a loss of services will be the individuals served, and that is unacceptable. However, if the county decides to give the CSB money, then I think that it needs to come with strings attached; namely, some transparency in how that money is being spent, and the development of a Workplan that can be shared with the constituents that shows the way that the money is being managed and can show that they will not get themselves into this situation again. This comes down to bad management. Bailing them out and not making them accountable will not help anyone.

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