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State funding cuts a concern for Fulton County

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton County government’s department that deals with funding for several human services agencies is concerned about increasing losses of state and federal aid.

The county Community Services Department coordinates planning, management and oversight of the mental health, chemical dependency and developmental disabilities system of services for Fulton County residents.

The hope is those served can reach their full potential as productive members of the county, and the effort includes administration of funds from state and federal agencies; through contracts with local area not-for-profit agencies.

Community Services Director Ernest Gagnon recently informed the Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee that the funding picture through the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, or OASAS, isn’t looking good. Much of it is related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said OASAS has decreased pass-through funding to all OASAS programs by 31 percent. He said this is a 11 percent hike over the 20 percent his department was initially informed of.

“OASAS informs the department that they are working with the [state] Division of Budget to reduce this reduction to the 20 percent for the third quarter of 2020,” Gagnon said. “OASAS is counting on being bailed out by the federal government and having these funds restored. I am not optimistic this will happen and this cut will be extended for the rest of the calendar year.”

Gagnon told supervisors that the state is in “delusional thinking” with some of its funding hopes. He said these funding situations affect agencies involved in the community, but not Fulton County taxpayers.

“There is no impact on the county tax levy,” he said.

Gagnon said the state Office of Mental Health has decreased third quarter funding by 20 percent for all OMH-pass through programs. On top of that, he said OMH has also done a recovery — or taking back of funds — allocated in 2013 in the amount of $100,000. Also, some programs were not funded at all and the Community Services Department is working with the OMH field office to determine if funding will be restored.

He said OMH is also counting on being bailed out by the federal government.

Gagnon said he told local agencies to prepare for less funding the rest of the year.

He predicted the Hamilton Fulton Montgomery Prevention Council will “end up taking a hit.”

On the mental health side, Gagnon said he’s not sure what agencies will be hurt the most by less funding. Meanwhile, he said Fulton County authorities and counselors are seeing an increase in suicides and substance abuse in the county.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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