Mental health advocates speak out against cuts

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(Host) Mental health advocates packed the Statehouse yesterday to tell lawmakers that budget cuts are having a severe impact on services.

Ken Libertoff is executive director of the Vermont Association for Mental Health. He says state budget reductions have led to 178 people being laid off at community mental health agencies.

(Libertoff) This is the impact of the recessions already. There are further cuts being considered in the 2010 budget that the House Appropriations Committee is working on as we speak. And we need to be here to be a face and voice of people who care about these services.

(Host) One of those raising her voice in concern is Donnaleen Farwell from the town of Chittenden in Rutland County.

Farwell’s 40 year old daughter is developmentally disabled and she lives with a caregiver in a private home.

(Farwell) My daughter now is receiving with the last hit that was taken 6 hours less of respite care already. She’s in a developmental home provided by the private home. It’s a great match for her and for the home provider. But I’m concerned. I don’t want the home provider to get burned out because there’s a lack of respite care for her to have a break.

(Host) Farwell is chairwoman of her town’s selectboard, and she says she understands the budget pressures faced by government.

But she had a four word message for lawmakers and the Douglas Administration.

(Farwell) And those four words are: Vermont people matter most. Our neighbors are our neighbors and we Vermonters want to take care of them.

(Host) Members of the House Human Services Committee say they’re committed to preserving mental health programs. And the Douglas Administration says a 4 percent cut for these services is reasonable given the state’s financial situation.

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