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Advocates push for human services

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ANN MARIE AMES
August 7, 2008
— Money’s going to be tight for Rock County service providers, just like it will be for everyone in the near future.

And the cost of providing services keeps going up, just like gasoline and groceries.


But as people lose their jobs and struggle to pay bills, the need for services to care for them also will grow, even as resources shrink.


That was one of many messages shared by residents Wednesday night at a public hearing hosted by the Rock County Human Services Board about the 2009 human services budget.


Advocates for the mentally ill and people with addictions pleaded with the board not to cut services.


Laura Binkley of Janesville told the board that money not spent on human services will be spent in other parts of the county, such as the jail.


“There are many law-abiding people who have a disease, such as mental illness or drug addiction,” Binkley said. “But please don’t kid yourselves. The costs will be put in different areas in the county, like the jail system and other departments. You can see with the crisis intervention how costs are rising. With loss of jobs in our community, it’s going to keep increasing.”


Rock County Crisis Intervention workers handled 7,052 cases in 2001, crisis Supervisor Denny Luster has told The Janesville Gazette. In 2007, that number was 18,553.


Human services Director Charmian Klyve will present a budget recommendation to County Administrator Craig Knutson on Friday, Aug. 15.


Knutson will compile budget proposals from all county department heads and submit a budget to the county board in October. Along with providing services to the mentally ill and disabled, the county is responsible for plowing and paving roads, maintaining the jail and airport, maintaining parks and advocating for abused children, among other things.


The 2008 human services budget was $47 million.


If the human services department picked up the 2008 budget and plugged it into 2009 with no changes and some assumptions about costs, the tax levy would increase 19 percent, Klyve said.


THEY SAID IT

“I’d like to tell you about a few teens I know. Their fathers are alcoholics. They got into drugs and alcohol themselves, too. They had to stay with us because of the situation at their house. I think it would be a good thing for teens in that position to have somewhere safe to go.”—Ann Showers-Curtis, Janesville


“The needs are tremendous in our community. The needs for every single human service are tremendous, and they are increasing. Government officials think human services can be provided by non-profits. They do a tremendous job, but we need the government services. You can’t imagine the needs there are for every service provided in Rock County”—Rob Wilkinson, Janesville, retired police officer and volunteer with the United Way’s First Call of Rock County


“With gas prices, it’s very hard to get people to drive to Madison and back. And there’s such a short window when (addicts) are willing to go to detox. If it takes too long, we lose them. There are a lot of people in this community that need help for mental illness, drug and alcohol use. We need this support.”—Jim Fisher, Janesville, on bringing detox services back to Janesville from Madison


“I have a sister with mental illness who’s been with CSP. It provides a support network, jobs, housing, employment, transportation and medication. Workers make her feel good and special. The importance for continuing funds is most realized by those who have received their support.”—Alice Reynolds, Milton, in a letter read to the board in support of the Community Support Program



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