County child care division threatened by state cuts
SUMMIT COUNTY – The same wave of state budget cuts that left the district attorney’s juvenile diversion program scrambling for money also dealt a blow to the county’s child care division.
Fortunately, the county commissioners were able to help the division with a separate pool of unanticipated funds refunded to them by the federal government.
Because of the cuts approved by Gov. Bill Owens, Summit County’s child care program lost $8,000, money it had used to fund a licensing position. That person, whose position is only half time, recruits and trains the county’s 30 in-home day care providers.
“It’s imperative to have,” said Sue Gruber, the county’s director of social services. “To have your own licensing specialist means you can license people in a timely manner.”
The Summit Board of County Commissioners decided Monday to give the Social Services department more than $10,000 to keep that position in place. The $10,000 came to the county through the state; Summit was among several counties given a bonus for its part in a federal work participation program designed for needy families.
But County Commissioner Bill Wallace is frustrated by the recent cuts. He suggested Monday the county find ways to cut its own expenses in favor of programs such as child care licensing and juvenile diversion. One place he sees some potential fat: the Summit County Jail. Wallace suggested that instead of transporting sick prisoners from jail to a medical facility by ambulance, the county take them in a patrol car, if it is not a serious illness.
“My issue is with the fact that state statute says we have to provide medical services to prisoners in the jail,” Wallace said. “We have had this year about $100,000 worth of claims, or costs, we’ve had to provide (to inmates). At the same time, the state is telling us they’re not going to provide money for us to license child care providers and cut back on our programs such as our juvenile diversion program. I’m saying, “Let’s make sure we’re not providing criminals first-class medical treatment when we have to turn around and cut back on our non-mandated services that I think are more beneficial to the community.’ Yes, we have inmate services we have to provide, but they don’t have to be top of the line. I just want to be sure they evaluate each transport appropriately.”
County Manager Ron Holliday is looking into Wallace’s request.
Summit County Ambulance director Sean Caffery said he doesn’t think the county’s ambulance expenses are out of line, however.
For transports within the county, the ambulance services charges the county a flat $500 a month. So far this year, the ambulance has taken seven inmates from the jail to an in-county medical facility.
“Out-of-county transports average about $1,800 a trip,” Caffery said, adding there have only been two inmate transports to Denver facilities in 2002. “But if amounts start to be excessive, we would work with (the county) to reduce those amounts.”
Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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