|NEFSH job loss could reach 158|
|The Press - News|
|Written by Joel Addington|
|Thursday, 28 April 2011 09:56|
Northeast Florida State Hospital will soon layoff more than 100 employees in response to mental health funding cuts expected from the Florida legislature.
As the 2011 session approaches its end early next month, uncertainty surrounds many changes making their way through the legislative process in Tallahassee, whether they’re spending reductions in education and health care, salary reductions for government employees to fund their pensions, new voting rules or the layoffs at the state hospital in Macclenny.
Here’s a look at some of what’s at stake locally as the Florida House and Senate begin merging their respective budgets in conference this week in preparation for consideration by the governor.
Joe Infantino, director of Northeast Florida State Hospital, is preparing the facility for its most sweeping budget reduction in recent history.
“This is the largest single year cut in my tenure here,” said Mr. Infantino, who began at NEFSH in July 1989.The publicly-run hospital was spared in March from privatization, which local officials feared could lead to the hospital’s eventual relocation. The budget axe fell, though, and NEFSH has been directed to slash 10 percent of its budget or roughly $6.8 million.
Mr. Infantino said that equals about 158 positions, but he couldn’t say which departments would be targeted.
“I can’t tell you that because I don’t know,” he said, adding that his recommendations on how to achieve the savings are expected in Tallahassee in the coming weeks.
Mr. Infantino also anticipates cuts to “adult community mental health” funds appropriated for the Community Behavorial Healthcare Services [CBHS] office on W. Lowder St. in Macclenny. The NEFSH affiliate is the only outpatient adult mental health provider in the county.
“They are going to be cut, but the numbers are undetermined,” said Mr. Infantino. The CBHS office employs 12 full time staff and operates with a $998,505 annual budget.
CBHS is funded by the Florida Department of Children and Families’ Circuit 3 and 8 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Program Office.
The Gainesville-based office’s contract manager, Raj Khusial, called the elimination of all funding, except for emergency “adult crisis stabilization” services, the worst case scenario. That cut would total about $17.2 million from some $20.8 million in funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment for adults and children in Circuits 3 and 8.
The upheaval at NEFSH stands in contrast to what’s expected at the county health department.
While hospitals and other health care providers are facing smaller reimbursements for patients on Medicare, Medicaid and with disabilities, the health department is largely insulated from those cuts, said director Kerry Dunlavey. She’s certain the health department will have less resources in the coming year, but no layoffs are anticipated.
“We’ve always done a good job of diversifying our funding sources,” said Ms. Dunlavey.
She points to the coming construction of a 1200-square-foot addition that will double the capacity of the health department’s children’s dental clinic. When the roughly $600,000 grant-funded project is complete, the clinic will have four new dental chairs. No new staff will be needed, however.
“I think there will be more money for it, but I’m a little nervous too,” he said, “because the governor’s asking for one pot of money that he can divide up how he sees fit. I’m afraid some of us small counties could fall by the wayside.”
In previous years the legislature has set aside grants for small, rural counties in the Rural Infrastructure Fund. The fund helps with projects that foster job growth, like paving roads or constructing utilities.
The grants can be as high as $300,000 or 30-40 percent of the cost the infrastructure project.
“Until I see the final product, I’m not going to get excited or worried about it, either way,” Mr. Register said of the state budget.
The legislature and governor took emergency action recently to fund the Florida court system through June 30, but that also meant a year-over-year reduction of some $6.1 million statewide.
Clerk of Courts Al Fraser said that translated to an $11,000 loss for his office.
He’s been advised by the Florida Association of Court Clerks that the legislature will keep the courts funded at the present level, or about $445 million. But given the House and Senate budgets are so out of line with one another, Mr. Fraser is still uneasy.
“That’s quite a bit of money to be in conference about, so who knows,” he said, adding, “I can’t operate on no less.”
Another possible hit to court funding involves the 10 percent of paid fines that local clerks retain.
Those dollars could be in jeopardy as well.
“That was on the table,” Mr. Fraser said. He’s heard that the Senate’s plan to eliminate the funding source may be abandoned. The House budget left it intact.
The growing popularity of early voting in recent years has Supervisor of Elections Nita Crawford wary of proposed legislation to shorten early voting from two weeks to one week.
“We’re going to try to get it changed,” said Ms. Crawford. “Voters love early voting. I love it too, because of the convenience to voters. We’re trying to go back and ask them to reconsider for two weeks of early voting, but if not, to let us have longer hours for the one week.”
The goal would be to add another four hours and have early voting available for 12 hours a day, rather than eight.
Last November’s mid-term elections brought 2746 voters to the polls early in Baker County, or about 19 percent of all registered voters. Two years before in the presidential election, there were more than 5000 early votes cast here.
“Those people may want to get on the phone and call their state legislators,” she said.
Ms. Adkins’ staff can be reached at (850) 488-6920 and Mr. Dean’s at (850) 487-5017. Links to the contact information of other legislators can be found at http://www.flsenate.gov and http://www.myfloridahouse.gov.
|Last Updated on Friday, 29 April 2011 10:01|