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CUTBACKS WILL DENY HELP TO MENTALLY ILL CHILDREN

At Wyndham Lawn, a children's agency in Lockport, we serve 100 children classified as "seriously and persistently" mentally ill. These children have been determined to be ready for psychiatric hospitalization. We work with them and their families to prevent that.

In one particular year, we were able to prevent 90 percent of these placements. This is accomplished, in part, by using up to $2,000 per child to marshal community resources to help prevent placement.

The average cost per child is approximately $1,560 per year. The cost of hospitalization is $1,200 per day. If the children we are keeping out of the hospital were to be hospitalized for that year, the cost would be over $34 million. The cost of our program last year was $156,000.

The state budgetary process in the past has been very strict for this program, so that small pay increases for staff have been severely delayed by the state.

Astonishing as it may seem, we are told that this program is slated for immediate personnel and monetary cuts of at least 20 percent in the proposed state budget.

Our agency also provides residential treatment to about 90 children per year. That budget has been the subject of screens, caps and parameters set by the state. Yet it is cited for cuts so severe they can only damage or deny help to these children, who must be removed from their communities after everything else has failed for them.

I doubt voters wanted to "cut and gut" foster care for children in need of it. I doubt they wanted services designed to prevent expensive out-of-home placement cut. And I very much doubt they wanted to cut child protective services for abused and neglected children. Yet all of these will receive a 37 percent cut in the budget as presented. The dollar amounts are from $596 million, as current state share of costs, to $395 million.

I have not mentioned the human misery spared by these programs, which must increase when the programs shrink or disappear. That argument seems to be out of fashion.

MICHAEL M. MORAN
Executive Director
Wyndham Lawn Home for Children
Lockport

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