County Officials Rally for Human Services Program

Potter County Today

County officials from across the state converged on Harrisburg Wednesday to rally for continued state funding for human service programs that the state requires counties to deliver to their citizens. At issue is a proposal by the legislature to cut its support for the Human Services Development Fund (HSDF). Human Services Administrator Jim Kockler, who represented Potter County at Wednesday’s rally, points out that his agency stands to lose tens of thousands of operating dollars, adding, “It couldn’t come at a worse time.”

HSDF is the one state funding stream that gives local agencies some flexibility in addressing competing priorities, whether they be services for senior citizens, the mentally ill, the addicted, the developmentally disadvantaged or victims of child abuse or neglect. HSDF was created to encourage county governments to provide services that meet locally identified needs. As Kockler explained during a recent news conference, most other state funds must be expended for specific program objectives. HSDF is the lone exception that allows counties some discretion, he added.

State Rep. Barbara McIlvaine Smith (shown) spoke at Wednesday’s rally: “So many people have been devastated by the economy, and more people are relying on HSDF services than ever before, but its budget has been slashed 29 percent in the past two years. Our counties need these funds to provide human services and assistance that traditional state programs do not. This funding goes to people we know, people in our neighborhoods who have skills, who have lost jobs, for example, and need help to get back on their feet. You can’t look for employment while you are dealing with a crisis, or trying to care for a loved one in crisis. We have a lot of tough choices to make again in this year’s state budget, but we can’t continue to cut a program that helps people help themselves.”

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