Cuts may reduce money for crisis response services

Hundreds of people on low incomes and without Medicaid coverage might lose access to crisis response services in Benton and Franklin counties next year.

Benton County commissioners will learn about proposed cuts Monday when Ed Thornbrugh, director of the Benton Franklin Department of Human Services, discusses how loss of state money will force his department to reduce programs for helping people not qualified for Medicaid.

"It will affect hundreds of people here," Thornbrugh said.

About 60 percent of the people who come to the agency's crisis response center aren't on Medicaid, he said, noting those are likely to be the first affected by the state cuts.

Also, people without Medicaid benefits and who are hospitalized for mental or emotional health issues will be affected.

One way interested people can better understand the department's various money sources and give input about the department's programs is to volunteer to serve on one of the department's three advisory boards.

Thornbrugh said the department is looking for people to serve on the Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse advisory boards.

The boards meet monthly with human services staff members and talk about issues facing the community receiving services, as well as evaluating proposals and contracts, and providing recommendations.

"We think it's going to be very challenging to meet even the core services we provide now," Thornbrugh said. "That's why we would like to have a community presence when accepting advice and doing planning."

The substance abuse board must have a third of its members be people who are recovering from addictions.

The commission meeting, which is open to the public, will begin at 9 a.m. at the courthouse in Prosser.

Thornbrugh's presentation is scheduled for 9:05 a.m.

For information, call the department at 783-5284.