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Social services face hard times

SUMMIT COUNTY – With many states facing stringent budget cuts, it’s no surprise that human services are feeling the sting as their funds get sliced. Colorado, and correspondingly, Summit County, is no exception.

“The state funds have been cut,” said Susan Gruber, director of the county’s Department of Social Services, in a presentation to the Board of County Commissioners Monday.

“And they’re not coming back,” added Daphne Schroth, the county’s director of human services.



Nevertheless, the two presented updates to the commissioners that were slightly more upbeat than the ones they arrived with late last winter.

“The news is much better than what we gave you in February,” Schroth said.



“It’s certainly not a pretty picture,” Gruber said. “But I would say that thus far the Department of Social Services has not been hit as hard as we thought.”

Other programs, including statewide mental health and youth correctional services, have not been so lucky. One service provider, Mental Health Corp. of Denver, lost $5 million in funding, will drop 400 indigent clients and has laid off the equivalent of 14 full-time employees, the Associated Press reported Monday. Comparatively speaking, local social services have walked away unscathed.

In February the agencies were notified that much of their funding stream would be cut, Gruber said. But as the months passed, some of that was restored. Gruber attributed this to state officials who recognized the benefits the programs offered.

“The governor probably realized that the programs that we support are mandated programs and that they’re very needed,” she said.

County Manager Ron Holliday noted that because the services the program provides are mandated, their needs must be met regardless of financial constraints.

“We’re hopeful the shortfall will be met,” Holliday said. “But if it doesn’t come through, we’ve got no choice (in providing those services). We have to write the check for the shortfall.”

“When clients walk through the door, we provide those services.”

With various safeguards built into the system, it does not appear that many services suffer drastic cuts. However, they precarious nature of some funding leaves many lingering questions.

For the 2002-03 fiscal year, the county’s child welfare program is on course to overspend by more than $54,000. However, the state is expected to compensate for much of that. The only problem is that no one will know exactly how much until June 30, when the state closes out its child welfare block grant.

“We had hoped that we’d be baled out by the state,” Gruber said, adding that such funds were available to all such programs via an application process.

However, she also noted that the program had originally budgeted for the potential run in the red and that county general funds would be available should the state not come through. This would prevent a decline in the quality of service, she said.

“As long as it is in our budget, and it is, it shouldn’t affect services at all,” Gruber said.

The county’s child welfare program currently cares for five children, three in subsidized adoption and two in in-home placement.

“That’s not a lot of children,” Gruber noted. “The costs are just so expensive.”

Aidan Leonard can be reached at

(970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at aleonard@summitdaily.com.


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