From The Republican
By Fred Contrada
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Consumers and officials from the agencies that serve them turned out in force Wednesday to urge state officials not to cut their funding.
Secretary JudyAnn Bigby of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services made the trip to the Haskell Building at the former Northampton State Hospital campus for the second in a series of hearings aimed at helping her shape her fiscal 2012 budget.
Alan J. Klein, senior vice president of the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, said further cuts in state aid to his agency would affect the at-risk children it serves, as well as the workers it employs. Klein noted that the state has not increased the rate for the services his agency provides in six years.
The Executive Office of Health and Human Services oversees a wide variety of programs geared towards helping needy families, veterans, seniors and people with disabilities and mental health issues. The hearing was divided into four, one-hour sessions, each addressing a different area of service.
One of the agencies the office oversees is the Soldier’s Home of Holyoke, which last year saw a $900,000 cut restored that would have resulted in the closure of its outpatient services clinic.
Stephen B. Bernard, the chief financial officer for Health and Human Services, told the audience that the office will have to operate in 2012 without the federal stimulus money that gave it some breathing room this year.
Gov. Deval L. Patrick estimates that the absence of that federal money will contribute to up to a $2 billion gap in the state budget he is currently compiling. With fixed costs such as pensions and health care continuing to rise, Patrick has warned that all areas, including aid to cities and towns, could face cuts as he attempts to balance the fiscal 2012 budget.