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Health, mental health, child protective services assess budget

Budget appropriations for Fiscal Year 2018 have been approved by the legislature, and very few agencies were spared from cuts.

Among those, the Mississippi Department of Mental Health (DMH), which took an appropriations hit of $14.4 million, and the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services (MDCPS), which has seen a budget decrease from the legislature of $14.3 million, or nearly 13 percent less than last year’s budget.

Related: State agencies to cover budget cuts 

Adam Moore with DMH said their $14.4 million dollar cut looks bad enough on paper, but the full impacts are not yet known.

“We lost the $14 million,” said Moore. “But we have over $5 million in a waiver program we have to fund, so that puts us at $19 million.”

Moore said the cuts could be even more drastic, depending on how the agency makes adjustments.

“There may be federally matched funds involved,” said Moore. “But we’ll need a few days to determine the full impact, and see how we’ll handle the cut.”

Related: Budget cuts hit the Department of Mental Health

Moore added that it is too soon to tell if any major service or job losses will occur due to the appropriations.

MDCPS Commissioner Dr. David Chandler said his agency will just have to ‘tighten the belt’ and achieve more with less.

“During these challenging economic times, I very much appreciate the legislators’ careful stewardship of our hardworking taxpayers’ dollars and I am confident that we can do whatever is necessary to meet every objective facing our agency with the money appropriated to us for the next fiscal year.”

Chandler added that even with the cut, his agency will not reduce services.

“We will do whatever is necessary with the resources we are provided to make sure our safety net is stronger and wider as ever before.  We will meet the needs of those who rely on us.”

While MDCPS does not anticipate staffing layoffs and plans to continue recruitment, the commissioner added that the agency will be continuing ongoing examination of job descriptions and the assignment of responsibilities.

Under terms of a December 2016 federal court settlement agreement, MDCPS has agreed to reduce the caseload assigned to child protection frontline workers and supervisors, upgrade the agency’s computer database network to better manage case information on foster children, and improve the overall delivery of child protection services.

Related: Changes could be coming to Mississippi foster care system

There are federally matched funds that help MDCPS function, but Chandler was unsure at the moment if they will be impacted by the budget cuts.

“But we will do more with less,” said Chandler. “I’ll appeal to the Casey Family Foundation, to let them know we are in a tough time and may need more assistance.”

Chandler said he may even look to outside sources for salary funding.

“The taxpayers of this state have foot the bill for my salary,” said Chandler. “I might ask them (the Casey Family Foundation) to cover my wages.”

Related: Special session now required to finalize MDOT, AG budget

State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier spoke with News Mississippi about the budget issues and the impact on the Department of Health.

“We were able to move some money around to fill some areas,” said Dr. Currier. “But unfortunately some people will be let go.”

Currier said that retirees and unfilled positions may take the brunt of the cuts that need to be made in workforce.

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