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Archive for Wednesday, May 2, 1990

NASH CENTER FACES SPENDING FREEZE

May 2, 1990

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Because no increase in the level of public funding is expected this year for Bert Nash Mental Health Center, the local agency in 1991 will freeze both the level of services it offers and the number of people on its staff.

At the annual meeting of the board of directors of the agency last week, a $1.9 million budget for 1991 was set.

Although the budget is 7 percent above last year's level, Executive Director Sandra Shaw said it essentially contains no growth.

She also said that during the next week, the agency will study the need for a fee increase for services offered and will look at cost-cutting measures such as trimming administrative staff to reduce overhead.

Shaw said the 7 percent budget increase is because a person hired last year through a state grant will be with the agency all year instead of part of the year and because the mental health center will increase some staffers' salaries to bring them closer to state-recommended levels.

SHAW SAID Bert Nash follows the Kansas civil service salary schedule, but this year the agency set salary levels using the 1987 schedule. Shaw said she hopes to be able to bring the salary of all 56 staff members up to the 1990 civil service level in 1991.

Shaw said that in her 20 years in the field of mental health, she has never seen public funding so tight.

"The county, because of severe budget constraints, is asking departments to be extremely conservative, and we know at the state level there will be a decrease in funding," she said. "Over the past five years, there has been a major erosion of federal, state and county funding."

Specifically, Shaw said, in 1986, federal and state grants made up about 28 percent of the agency's budget. But by 1989, that had dropped to 14.8 percent and is expected to drop to about 9 percent next year.

Although clients of Bert Nash provide funds for about 50 percent of the agency's budget, many cannot afford to pay the full cost of services.

According to Shaw, 65 percent of the clients who use services at Bert Nash make less than $15,000 a year, and half of that number get no public assistance. And because the center's fees are based on a sliding scale that considers income and number of dependents, lower income clients do not pay the full cost of services.

But Shaw added that it surprises people to know that the economic profile of the clients the agency serves is the same as for Douglas County as a whole.

"IT'S STARTLING to people how many low-income people there are in Douglas County," she said.

Shaw said that for clients who make less than $15,000, the average hourly rate charged for Bert Nash services is less than $10.

Because the budget year at Bert Nash does not begin until January and so much of the Bert Nash budget is determined by public funding, Shaw said the budget level decided on last week could change dramatically in the fall.

"All sorts of things can make a massive difference in the budget," she said.

ALSO DURING the annual meeting, new members of both the agency's executive committee and its board of directors were elected.

The new chairman of the executive committee is Dan Watkins, replacing Robert Johnson, who remains on the executive committee.

Other executive committee officers elected were T.A. Mindrup, vice chairman, and Beverly Rosenfeld, secretary-treasurer. The other member of the five-person executive committee is Ken Martinez.

Elected to positions on the 16-member board of directors last week were Sue Pine and Cynthia Lartigue.

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