Fairfax County’s human services system is reaching the limits of what it can accomplish under its current funding, the Human Services Council told the Board of Supervisors this week.
“The human services system has become increasingly compromised,” said council Chairman Kevin Bell. “Years of funding reductions and revenue limitations have stretched the system.”
At the same time funding has been limited, the needs in the community have continued to grow, Bell said, leaving agencies trying to manage larger caseloads with fewer people.
A major concern right now is the potential loss of funding due to federal budget cuts, as about 20 percent of the funding for human services agencies comes from the federal government, according to the council’s letter to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
“This is what scares me and other members of the council the most, that we don’t know what the federal cuts are,” Bell said.
The council is asking the board to dedicate another $3.3 million to human services programs, about $1.3 million of which would be set aside in a flexible fund for quickly addressing unanticipated service needs.
Other items on the council’s list include restoring about $750,000 for the Community Health Care Network, $250,000 to provide a countywide prevention planning function, and $900,000 for employment services targeted specifically for people who are homeless. The council also proposes local monitoring of the state’s planned closing of the training centers, at an anticipated cost of about $169,000.
The Community Health Care Network serves about 18,000 low-income, uninsured Fairfax County residents. Cuts proposed in County Executive Ed Long’s budget would eliminate on-site radiology services, eliminate three pharmacy positions and one lab tech, eliminate three office manager positions and reduce payments to specialty care physicians who accept referrals from the network.
These cuts will increase patients’ wait time for services, make it more difficult for patients to access certain services, and have a negative impact on the operation of the clinics, according to a memo by the county’s Health Care Advisory Board.
The prevention planning function would support what the council says should be a long-term focus of the human services system: reorienting services toward preventing people from experiencing more serious problems later on, such as the early intervention services for infants with developmental delays or housing programs that prevent people from becoming homeless.
“We recognize the high return on investment of taxpayer dollars on prevention-oriented initiatives,” Bell said. “We do this piecemeal, but we should do it across the county’s budget.”
In addition, the Board of Supervisors is also weighing a request from the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board and Fairfax County Public Schools to improve mental and behavioral health services offered within the school system, at a cost of about $3.2 million. The efforts are aimed at early intervention with youth, hoping to prevent more serious issues, like suicides or shootings.
The Board of Supervisors is slated to adopt the county budget for fiscal 2014 on April 30.