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Potential human services budget cuts would cripple poor to a greater extent

WILLMAR -- Potential budget cuts for federal human services programs could end up taking money "from the poorest of the poor." Larry Kleindl, director of the Kandiyohi County Family Services Department, told the county commissioners Tuesday that, in light of hardships caused by recent natural disasters, the timing of the proposed cuts "isn't very wise."

    Kleindl said the possibility of $10 billion to $15 billion being cut from the federal human services budget cut would have "drastic effects" on Minnesota and on the clients served by Kandiyohi County's family service programs.

    The federal cuts could mean potential reductions in the county's child support fees, Medical Assistance funding as well as a variety of programs for youth provided by the PACT 4 Family Collaborative.

    In a later interview, Kleindl said his biggest concern is that the requirements for Medical Assistance eligibility will become more stringent and more people will be left without coverage.

    He said Kandiyohi County depends on the revenue from Medical Assistance to provide services to county residents. Less revenue means fewer services. The cuts would also mean that youth programs that provide preventative services such as school nurses, school social workers and afterschool activities would be reduced. Cutting those programs, said Kleindl, would end up costing Kandiyohi County and local families more in the end.

    He said it may be easy to ignore legislative action that's happening on the federal level, but he said what happens on the federal level for human services budget cuts "will make an impact" here.

    Also Tuesday, the commissioners approved a new contract with Woodland Centers for providing services in 2006. The contract represents a 3 percent increase.

    Dr. Eugene Bonynge, executive director of Woodland Centers, gave an update on programs, such as the state's first intensive residential treatment facility in Atwater. That program is one that will be used to replace an existing program at the Willmar Regional Treatment Center.

    Bonynge said residential programs for youth and adults last fewer days but have more intensive treatment and follow-up care. He said there doesn't appear to be any negative effects from the shorter treatment periods.

    In other action the commissioners:

• Approved a contract with U-Care as part of the Minnesota Senior Health Options program. The contract, which is a new state option for senior citizens on medical assistance, went into effect Tuesday.

• Was informed a "summit" will be held at 1 p.m. Monday to discuss employment options at community businesses for people with disabilities.

• Agreed to charge $25 to child care providers for new, mandatory training on child car restraints. Family foster care providers must receive the training but will not be charged a fee. The training must be completed by Jan. 1.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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