Philly Health Commissioner Lays Out Gov. Corbett’s Cuts by the Numbers

Philadelphia City Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz held a press conference this afternoon with regard to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget cuts. In no uncertain terms, Schwarz had a message: We’re fucked.

“This budget takes apart many of the supports that have been in place for a very long time for people who are particularly vulnerable in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” he said, “with impacts that are dramatic for the city of Philadelphia.” As previously reported, Philly will lose $41 million in the proposed budget.

Because of Philadelphia’s place as both a city and country in Pennsylvania (fun fact: We’re one of six city/counties in the entire country) the functions provided to Philadelphia as a municipality and those provided by Philly as a county are both cut.

“When the state cuts its budget, many of the dollars that we’re talking about are dollars that have not been in play with discussions with City Council,” he said, noting the money in play is all determined by the state. What’s happening he said, is the taking apart of a legislative agenda that’s been in place for more than 40 years. The biggest programs that’ll be damaged include services for the mentally ill, young adults moving from, drug and alcohol treatment, services for delinquent children, services for those with HIV/AIDS, food stamp benefits, after school programs, and homeless support for those hoping to move on from life in a shelter. The funds for these services are all controlled by the state. The Administration says the cuts come with new opportunities for more flexible uses of the cash.

But what does that mean, in human terms? “There are folks with HIV who will die on the streets in Philadelphia,” said Schwarz.

The governor has put all these services together in what’s called a Block Grant and cut it by 20 percent. Of the city’s Health and Opportunity funding sources, 51 percent of the funding is made up of state money, 8 percent is local and 40 percent is federal.

Schwarz laid out the cuts based on an all-around 20 percent trim. And those specifics are devastating.

Mental health residential programs in the city, he said, will lose 500-600 beds; about 4,000 uninsured individuals with serious mental health illness will lose their outpatient services; 6-8 community walk-in centers for the mentally ill will be eliminated; 437 beds for those at drug and alcohol addiction centers will be gone; 3,000 people with intellectual disabilities will see a reduction in support; and 575 families per year will lose their DHS housing supports. For starters.

Gov. Corbett said the point of his budget is to “right-size” the public welfare system. He has refused to raise taxes during this Year of the Bible.

Schwarz continued, saying the city will need to cut half its daytime emergency teams and much of its Code Blue staff, which take care of the homeless at night when temperatures are extremely low. With the aforementioned cuts, the city expects an increase in the homeless population and street population with “less capacity to serve them.” The health department called this an “Equation for disaster” — the end result being not just homelessness, but more institutionalized citizens and a larger jail population.

2 Responses to “ Philly Health Commissioner Lays Out Gov. Corbett’s Cuts by the Numbers ”

  1. Paul Yabor says:

    Stop the Elimination of the General Assistance Program

    Governor Corbett’s 2012/ 2013 budget calls for the elimination of temporary welfare assistance for the disabled, victims of domestic violence and for people in drug treatment. This cut would leave our most vulnerable no means at all support ($205.00 per month) and the loss of medical benefits. One immediate result would be that the thousands who live in recovery houses (A system that houses as many as the over worked shelter system) would not be able to pay their rent and would become. homeless.
    So the gist of the situation is that over the past decade an unwritten unauthorized policy of cooperation has existed between private recovery houses and the welfare system. (see the book How It Works by Pro. Robert Fairbanks II for a further documentation)n contract of sorts has allowed people/addict to get medically assessed as temporary disabled in need of D&A treatment they are given $205.00 in cash 200.00 in food stamps and medical benefits for 9 months. The recovery houses take the cash and food stamps as rent (this varies for each recovery house)and the client is put in in to a cycle of 4 months of Intensive Out Patient (3 days a week)and another 4 months of Out Patient (1 day a week). The client is encouraged to integrate back into the work force and eventually move on this is a process called Step In Step Up Step Out. This system has flourished to the point where there
    are easily a few thousand recovery house beds city wide
    I don’t have exact figures however I am confident the system of recovery houses supplies as many or more bed slots as the shelter system. The recovery house system also provides far more structure support and overall a better quality of life than shelters by far. The recovery house system also acts as a conduit for offenders coming out of jail and even criminal justice programs such as the Forensic Intensive Recovery program (FIR) relies on recovery houses to provide daily supervision and General Assistance welfare to provide funding. The number one funding mechanism for recovery houses is General Assistance Welfare by a wide majority. It should also be pointed out that the management of recovery houses is a real shell game where they often have half their clients on benefits paying for the other half who are waiting to obtain benefits (there is up to a30 day wait for cash benefits to kick in) There other funding streams for recovery houses such as clients on
    SSI SSD and those who work but they are in the minority.
    So what is the impact of the elimination of General Assistance welfare on recovery . 1) the majority of people in recovery houses would not have a way to pay the rent. The only other option is the Shelter system which is overwhelmed already. So we are talking over a 1000 left homeless. Many recovery houses would be force to close or down size most likely foreclosing on mortgages and leaving addition vacant properties (some programs have 8 or more house open) people many coming out of jail would not have any other place to turn other than the shelter system (which doesn’t monitor them). 3) Criminal justice programs would not have funding for their clients. 4) IOP and OP treatment programs will have to close or down size (no medical benefits no pay) 5) residential recovery programs will also take a hit. 6). People emerging with addiction issues will have little chance of obtaining treatment and the incidents of mortality form drug abuse will increase. 7.). With
    less supervision and a greater degree of desperation offenders will be more likely go out and commit more crime
    Please fallow these links: Gov. Corbett’s Ph# 717-787-2500


  2. Ten years of cumulative cuts to human services plus the current 20% cut for each of several line items is more than counties can fiscally bear anywhere in Pennsylvania. No matter how this deal was packaged and sold, it won’t prove fiscally beneficial when consequences are tallied.

    The counties were given “flexibility” to decide which of several human services line items to pare and which ones to spare. Rumor has it that some line items will be cut more than 20% to accommodate essential children’s services. Some line items will be cut as high as 30, 40 or even 50% to accommodate “priorities.” The damage to the community this budget eventually produces could be much worse than expected.

    Allen McQuarrie
    PRO ACT Public Policy Committee of Southeast Pennsylvania

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