Programs aimed at aiding Fairfax County’s neediest and most vulnerable residents are facing cutbacks.
The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, which provides services to people with disabilities, mental illness and addiction, is facing an $8 million shortfall under the current budget year and a $9.4 million shortfall in fiscal 2013, which begins July 1.
“In some cases, we’re our own worst enemy,” said the agency’s director, George Braunstein, who spoke Tuesday with members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors serving on the Human Services Committee. The Community Service Board’s outreach efforts have helped increase the number of people aided each year by about 5 percent. In 2011, the CSB served more than 20,000 people.
The result, however, is growing need has outpaced funding, Braunstein said.
Among the cutbacks the CSB is considering are: Delays in service for at-risk teens and early intervention services for infants and toddlers; closing New Horizons’ 16-bed treatment program in Mount Vernon; closing the Sojourn House’s eight-bed community-based residential mental health treatment program for young women ages 12 to 17; and delaying or suspending services to detoxification programs.
“When we looked at where we would choose to downsize, we wanted to make sure there would be alternative services available [so] that we would impact the fewest people,” Braunstein said.
CSB’s current budget is about $141.9 million, with some additional funding provided by the Board of Supervisors during the third-quarter budget review. About 70 percent of the CSB’s budget comes from Fairfax County.
The remaining funds are from federal grants, Medicaid, the state and other grants. Fairfax County funds its CSB program at a higher amount than any other locality in the state.
Adding to the CSB’s financial woes are changes to entitlement programs such as Medicaid.
For example, CSB offers services to new high school graduates who have intellectual disabilities. This year, fewer of those individuals qualified for state Medicaid funding for the services they need than CSB officials projected. In addition, the agency’s Infant and Toddler Connection program, for young children with developmental delays, has seen 38 percent growth in the past two years.
The third major contributor to the shortfall is a program to house and treat adults with mental illness and substance abuse issues. The Medicaid funding CSB was expecting to receive to offset that program’s costs has not materialized.
“Everything we have done in the past to stretch dollars just has not worked out this year,” Braunstein told the board at a Budget Committee meeting in March.
Board of Supervisors members, who met with Braunstein Tuesday, said they were irritated that they were only hearing about the CSB’s budget shortfalls now, rather than before they approved budget allocations May 1.
“I’m frustrated by how this is coming to us,” said Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock). “This has been building for months but we only began to hear about this at the budget public hearings. … We just passed a budget ... and you’re asking us for our blessing to shut down stuff now?”
Fellow Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) said, “We’re talking about a budget that has been underfunding in FY2012 and is [underfunded] moving forward with FY2013 …The question is how to resolve this and decide what level of funding and services should be CSB.”
Several board members at the meeting said the proposed cuts were unacceptable and would cost the county more in the long run.
“If we don’t intervene at an early time, we’re going to be paying a much higher cost later,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee) said, specifically referencing the infant and toddler program. “Investments in something like this can prevent us from having to make larger investments down the road.”
Several public meetings on the CSB’s proposed cuts are scheduled for June, including a public comment meeting at 7:30 p.m. June 4. An additional public comment meeting is scheduled for June 18.
Staff Writer Kali Schumitz contributed to this article.