Killing Them Softly with Budget Cuts

Drug and alcohol treatment programs aren't in the business for the money. But they might go out of business for lack of it, if surprise cuts to their clients' state aid eligibility stay in place. O

Drug and alcohol treatment programs aren't in the business for the money. But they might go out of business for lack of it, if surprise cuts to their clients' state aid eligibility stay in place.

On July 1, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services suddenly cut clients of residential drug and alcohol treatment programs out of the populations eligible for Disability Financial Assistance (DFA). DFA is a safety net, a last resort for those deemed disabled but ineligible or awaiting approval for federal assistance. The lucky winners rake in upwards of a whopping $115 per month. Recipients of DFA in residential drug or alcohol treatment programs turn most of that over to those programs to pay their keep.

"That's been in place many years, and it's worked out very well," says Sherry Knapp-Brown, CEO of the Hamilton County Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board. "Clients have no problem doing that because that's where they live."

Those payments are the water wings keeping many treatment programs barely afloat.

"I think if any corporate business person looked at the budgets for any of these agencies, they would be appalled what they're operating with," Knapp-Brown says.

But it seems that in order to cut costs, ODJFS suddenly determined that, because language in the most recent budget no longer specifically says those programs' residents were eligible for DFA, they weren't. ODJFS didn't warn the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services (ODADAS) or any of the other affected constituencies about the emergency cuts or explain what exactly the emergency was.

"Without DFA, individuals seeking help for their alcohol and drug addiction will go unserved and programs that serve these clients will close," Cheri Walter, CEO of ODADAS, wrote in a furious Aug. 1 letter to Gov. Bob Taft. "Ultimately, Ohio citizens on the lowest rung of society will die."

The cuts add up to about $2 million a year and will affect 1,700 Ohioans, according to Betsy Johnson, associate CEO of ODADAS. But there's still hope: A panel of state legislators meets Aug. 22 to review, approve or reject ODJFS's move. Knapp-Brown says that State Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Green Township) is committed to reversing the cuts, and she's urging laypeople to weigh in with the governor's office or their state representatives.

Volunteering for Peace and Propaganda
Cincinnati members of the grassroots movement MoveOn.org are organizing a candlelight vigil in support of Cindy Sheehan and all families who have lost someone in the war in Iraq. The vigil begins at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on Fountain Square. Sheehan has camped outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, demanding a meeting with him, saying she wants to know why her son was sent to Iraq and where he died in combat. Bush has so far ignored the vigil during his five-week vacation, but supporters have joined Sheehan in an anti-war protest that has drawn international attention.

Sheehan has called for an immediate end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq and is scheduled to address the national anti-war mobilization in Washington, D.C., next month. For more information about Sheehan's effort, visit gsfp.org. For details about the mobilization in Washington, visit unitedforpeace.org.

The U.S. military has long used soldiers for propaganda and recruiting purposes, but sometimes the results are less than it might hope for. Consider the tepid endorsement of Army Spec. Julia Corbett, who recently returned to the area after a year in Iraq.

A 2003 graduate of McNicholas High School, Corbett is spending two weeks helping the recruiting station in Bethel in Clermont County. A press release from the army says the soldier is "happy to have this time in her hometown to discuss her experiences overseas as a light-wheel mechanic." But her own words lack the kind of enthusiasm that the military image machine likes to promote.

"It really wasn't that bad over there," Corbett says. "I'm really close to my family, and the hardest part was being away from all of them. I also had to go a whole year not being able to wear civilian clothes. I just looked at being in Iraq as part of doing my job.

"I really don't have bad things to say about being over there. While I wouldn't be the first person to volunteer to go back, I wouldn't fight the decision either."



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