A program meant to serve schoolchildren with emotional issues in Merced County is in limbo as a result of recent state budget cuts.
But since most local health agencies' budgets were already slashed to the sinew last year, most don't expect further bloodletting.
Manuel Jimenez, director of the Merced County Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Services, said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminated the program, but what that will mean for Merced County is still unknown. "We still want to offer these services for our kids," he added. "We can't go without serving these kids."
The statewide program's elimination was part of the $87 billion state budget, which closed a $19 billion gap, and was approved by the governor earlier this month. The Merced County Department of Public Health also saw an estimated $200,000 reduction in state funding as a result of the new budget.
Jimenez said he'll meet with officials at the Merced County Office of Education today to discuss options to keep the program running. A total of 56 children are served by the program throughout the county, he added. "These are kids who have emotional issues that get in the way of their learning," he explained. "Unfortunately, the governor chose not to serve needy kids; these are kids who really need the services."
Jimenez said he hopes officials at the office of education will help to be able to continue to offer those services.
Overall, he said that's the main program at the county's mental health services affected by state budget cuts. He doesn't anticipate any layoffs as a result of the program's elimination. "It's always a good thing when they don't cut too much," he added.
Tammy Moss, director of the department of public health, said the risk for deep budget cuts in her department wasn't as high this year because there wasn't much left to cut. The department took a large hit last year with an original reduction of $1.2 million. That reduction was later trimmed to $865,000.
Although the department wasn't immune to budget cuts this year, they came on a much smaller scale. Moss said officials estimate a reduction of about $200,000 that help support collaborative work with off-site clinics to help provide immunization opportunities. The money also helps support the immunization registry used by local health care providers to keep immunization records up to date. The immunization registry is an electronic health database.
"That's the primary program that looks like it's going to be impacted this year," Moss said. That's unfortunate, she added, because the promotion of immunization in children and adults is the most important step to prevent diseases.
Moss said officials are still waiting for information on whether the distribution of vaccines also might be affected by the cuts.
Martha Hermosillo, program administrator with the Merced Human Services Agency, said it isn't looking to cut any programs. She said officials cut back a lot last year so they wouldn't have to make reductions this year. "So far, so good," she said.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 388-6507, or firstname.lastname@example.org.