State cuts would hit elderly, mentally ill hardest

The Peninsula’s most vulnerable — children, the elderly and the mentally ill — will likely bear the brunt of California’s fiscal crisis, according to a San Mateo County report detailing how proposed budget cuts will affect local programs.

The analysis, presented by Assistant County Manager David Bosch at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, estimated the county would face $6.5 million in cuts to its $1.7 billion budget if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed 2008-09 budget is passed.

Nearly half of San Mateo County’s cuts — $2.6 million — would be in health department programs, including mental health, public health, family health and aging and adult services.

“$6.5 million out of $1.7 billion may not seem like a lot, but when you look at the human impact in terms of mental health services and an 18 percent reduction in hours for in-home supportive services, it’s tremendous,” Supervisor Jerry Hill said.

The reduction in in-home supportive services would mean slashing of housekeeping, meal preparation, laundry and food shopping for elderly and disabled people, according to the county manager’s office.

“Sadly enough, these are the populations that don’t show up to meetings to protest,” Hill said.

The governor’s budget also cuts Healthy Families — a low-income children’s health coverage program — by 5 percent, increases premiums and copays for all but the poorest subscribers and institutes a $1,000 annual cap on dental benefits. The cuts would likely create long waiting lists for the 9,435 county kids enrolled in the program, said Marmi Bermudez, program manager.

“Now we might not have enough providers to treat kids who need medical, dental and vision care,” Bermudez said.

The governor’s cuts would also mean a $3.1 million reduction to the county’s Human Service Agency programs, including assistance payments to families and child welfare services.

Public safety programs including youth crime prevention, juvenile offender programs and anti-gang measures are at risk of losing $833,000, according to the county manager.

The Countywide Gang Task Force, recently lauded for arresting 1,118 gang members, seizing 198 weapons and more than 4,247 grams of drugs since its inception two years ago, would be at risk of losing $35,000 in funding.

County supervisors are working with state legislators and lobbyists, hoping the endangered programs will fare better when Schwarzenegger revises his budget in May.

“It may be even worse, depending on the economy,” Hill said. “Hopefully the legislators can make some magic.”

tbarak@examiner.com

Budget cuts

Estimated losses to major San Mateo County programs based on proposed state budget

» Child welfare services: $1.536 million

» Behavioral health and recovery services: $1.29 million

» Public health and family health: $549,286

» CalWORKS child care: $314,000

» Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act: $196,561

» Adult Protective Services: $143,453

» Services to seniors, disabled: $138,776

» Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction program: $94,000

» Gang Task Force funding: $35,000

Source: County Manager’s Office

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