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Legislature opposes cuts for COPS

The Cattaraugus County Legislature opposes state cuts in Community Optional Preventive Services (COPS) funds that officials say would eliminate proven prevention and treatment while pitting community-based youth programs against more costly detention programs.

The legislators passed a resolution Wednesday urging Gov. David A. Paterson and state legislators to maintain COPS funding streams and eliminate the proposed consolidation of services within a locally controlled Youth Development Block Grant. They fear the change would cost the county about $250,000, and they are joining an estimated 20 other counties in the opposition effort. Requests for similar resolutions are being sent to the cities of Salamanca and Olean, where the COPS funds are also used to support youth programs.

Officials in Cattaraugus County briefed the Legislature's Human Services Committee on the issue for two hours Tuesday, explaining why the shift would create only the illusion of flexibility, said County Youth Bureau Director Tony Evans.

He said that the Youth Bureau spreads the state money out to a host of programs and that he does not know how the county would make it up, adding the current prevention efforts have reduced the rates of youth crime, pregnancy and smoking.

The state Office of Children and Family Services is preparing to shut down two residential youth treatment centers, in Great Valley and Limestone. The agency has submitted a contingency budget recommendation to eliminate the COPS funding retroactive to the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009, a move that would require the county to spend $175,000 to close a funding gap. That money would be eliminated altogether in the governor's 2009-10 budget proposal.

"It's like a balloon dog," Evans said. "You squeeze the head, and the air just goes to the other end."

The resolution states that the county's state funding for a number of youth programs would be slashed by 24.5 percent. Some of the programs that would be combined in the block grant are Youth Development and Delinquency Prevention, Special Delinquency Prevention Program, Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, Alternatives to Detention, Alternatives to Residential Placement, and Secure and Non Secure Detention Services Funds.

The resolution asks for the elimination of the block grant concept of funding.

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