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State cuts threaten aid to mentally ill page 2
Proposed state funding cuts could gut program designed to provide alternative to jail for mentally ill troublemakers

 Dorothy Boling and Mike Kalandras sit at Discovery House in Warsaw, which provides on-site counselors and other programs through the regional community services board to help people who suffer from mental illness.
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Date published: 1/22/2010


Until now, MP-NNCSB has received $153,000 a year for jail diversion. The Rappahannock Area Community Service Board, which serves Fredericksburg and surrounding counties, has received $140,000 annually.

If approved by the General Assembly, the funding reduction could ax about one-third of the funding for the programs at both agencies.

"We'd have to cut services. Housing and transportation would have to be cut," said O'Connell McKeon, clinic director for MP-NNCSB.

She said she is also afraid that the budget cuts may result in closing a group home.

MP-NNCSB now operates two homes called Discovery Place I and Discovery Place II in Middlesex County and Warsaw, where persons like Kalandras recover from mental illness with the assistance of on-site counselors and other CSB programs.

"A lot of these guys just don't have any friends," McKeon said. In addition to camaraderie, the homes provide their residents with hopes of better lives and the skills to lead them successfully, she said.

RACSB Director of Clinical Services Frank DeForest said that agency has used its jail diversion funding to begin training local law enforcement officers how to recognize and handle problems caused by mentally ill people. One goal of the program is to take mentally ill people to a crisis center for treatment--not to a jail for punishment.

RACSB also provides six counselors to the mental-health unit of the 1,500-inmate Rappahannock Regional Jail.

One of those positions has been funded with jail diversion money and will soon become vacant. DeForest said filling the vacancy has been put on hold pending the outcome of the budget process.

"The five other full-time positions are not enough to meet the jail's needs." said DeForest.

In May, the MP-NNCSB hired Linda H. Elam as a jail diversion counselor. Elam is also a retired captain at the Middle Peninsula Regional Jail, a partner in the program.

Elam said she has worked with 19 people referred to the jail diversion program by courts, police and probation officers. Ten of her clients "are doing well at home" after successfully completing the program, she said.

Nine, including Kalandras, are still in the program, some at home and others at group homes. Two more inmates were scheduled to join the program this week.

"Only one has gone back to jail because he couldn't comply with the rules," she said.

Frank Delano: 804/761-4300
Email: fpdelano@gmail.com

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