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THE NUMBERS-CRUNCHERS ARE DESTROYING LIVES

I have been receiving counseling and related services at the Community Mental Health Clinic of Buffalo General Hospital since 1990. Recently, my counselor of almost seven years was "laid off" -- that is, fired.

She had been with Buffalo General for nearly 13 years, during which time she had been a dedicated and caring clinician. She did not lose her job because of any professional failings or shortcomings, but rather because of the hospital's ongoing downsizing, cost-cutting or streamlining -- whatever euphemism one chooses to explain what amounts to a callous dismissal of an experienced and capable professional.

A number of other counselors lost their positions at the same time, also sacrificed by the numbers-crunchers. All were given only two weeks' notice -- utterly insufficient to contactclients or to have caseloads transferred. In my own case, no follow-up counseling has yet been arranged. No one from the clinic has contacted me so that I can be seen by any of the remaining counselors, whose new caseloads must be overwhelming.

These latest changes are the culmination of more than a year of upheaval initiated by new management with new priorities -- priorities that seem to ignore the good of the clinic's employees and of its clients. Is this the future of a "managed-care" approach to mental health?

Are counselors and clients to be at the mercy of the "bottom line" and of those whose onlynotion of accountability comes with dollar signs attached? How much money has to be saved in order to justify disrupting careers and lives?

In short, I see no sign that the current management is aware of, or concerned about, the community it serves. The community may be forced to respond by availing itself of otheroptions for mental-health treatment.

Jack Shifflett
Buffalo

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