State agency invites all to town hall on cuts to health, social services

DSHS chief wants residents to know what 10% cut means

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

 

If you go

What: Meeting on some of the proposed state cuts.

Who: Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Susan Dreyfus.

Where: Fort Vancouver National Site Artillery Barracks, 600 E. Hatheway Road in Vancouver.

When: 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

Details: http://www.dshs.wa.gov/budget.

Seeking out a public still unaware of the full impact of proposed state cuts, Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Susan Dreyfus will stop in Vancouver Thursday.

She will offer information and hear from Southwest Washington residents on possible reductions expected to impact about 80,000 state residents. Items eyed for cuts include drug and alcohol treatment funding and long-term care services to nearly 17,000 elderly people.

Those two proposed spending rollbacks account for just a small sample of programs and people who would be affected by 10 percent across-the-board cuts at state agencies that are likely to occur if the state Legislature isn’t able to raise more state revenue.

Thursday’s meeting in Vancouver is one of a series of town hall meetings Dreyfus is holding throughout the state on proposed cuts to help increase public understanding of cuts put into place since 2008 and what future reductions could look like. Vancouver’s town hall meeting is 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Fort Vancouver National Site Artillery Barracks, 600 E. Hatheway Road in Vancouver.

“The governor called for a 10 percent budget reduction process to be done statewide,” said David Kelly, executive director of the Southwest Washington Agency on Aging and Disabilities. “They said, ‘OK, here are all the possibilities.’ This is a pretty serious proposal. It’s either this or raise revenue or a combination of both.”

The Department of Social and Health Services is the state’s largest agency and is responsible for mental health, drug and alcohol treatment, services for the elderly and people with disabilities, juvenile rehabilitation, domestic abuse prevention, cash assistance, food stamps, child support and other services.

Among the possible cuts, about 1,360 elderly people now served by the Southwest Washington Agency on Aging would lose long-term care services, including home care assistance and care in nursing homes and assisted living centers. Statewide, 17,000 elderly people would lose long-term care services.

Home care assistance provides help with bathing, cleaning and other personal services that allow seniors to remain in their homes rather than going to a long-term care facility.

Family, friends

The same people who lose the service also would be ineligible to qualify for help in paying for long-term care in a facility, said Mike Reardon, Southwest Washington Agency on Aging community services program manager. “They wouldn’t be eligible anymore, so they would have to rely on some sort of external support system like any family or friends they may have,” he said.

State funding for drug and alcohol treatment also could be wiped out. Cleve Thompson, who retired Friday as manager of Clark County alcohol and drug services, said the agency’s funding would be cut by 65 percent under the proposal. The county serves about 4,500 drug and alcohol treatment clients per year, Thompson said. A large portion of those clients would lose services under the cuts.

“I think they would end up in hospital emergency rooms, the back of police vehicles, jails, in somebody’s backyard or house,” Thompson said. “It’s tragic to make that kind of decision.”

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://www.twitter.com/Col_Trends; http://www.facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com.