Trimming a governmental budget can trigger real pain and suffering, not the imaginary kind politicians may pontificate about during an election year. We may be feeling the impact of the budget knives for years to come.
The Arkansas Department of Human Services has announced it will cut funding to programs aimed at preventing child abuse, effective July 1, because of a $2.2 million reduction in federal funding.
The questions and answers are never simple when it comes to budgetary matters. The program cuts, which take effect July 1, are in response to a reduction in the funding the state receives through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
DHS is confining the cuts to prevention programs so no caseworker positions will be eliminated. It comes down to keeping caseworkers working to ensure the safety and well-being of children or eliminating programs that have helped thousands of struggling families in Arkansas.
The Human Services Workers in Schools Program, which last year placed workers in 27 school districts and served 15,429 students, will be eliminated. The program has provided student and family counseling, parent training, crisis intervention and other services to aid families and reduce the likelihood of abuse or neglect.
The agency also plans to eliminate the funding it provides for Family Resource Centers, which served 11,448 students in 27 school districts last year. The centers educate parents about child development and appropriate responses to a child’s behavior.
It also means funding cuts for the Crimes Against Children Division (CACD) of the Arkansas State Police and some family support programs. CADC’s child abuse hotline during the last fiscal year received more than 50,000 calls and CACD investigated 6,378 abuse cases.
To maintain the level of services CACD provides means shifting money from elsewhere in the state police budget. It could mean fewer troopers on the highways.
Cutting federal programs has real consequences for real people. Most politicians on Capitol Hill don’t often mention negative consequences when they vote.
An anticipated additional reduction in funding in 2014 would reportedly force the agency to cut back on its child maltreatment investigations. That means more real consequences for children.
Do we save now or pay the price in ruined lives later?
Take Back drugs
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, Pine Bluff Police Department, the Tri-County Drug Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Administration will collect unwanted, unused and expired prescription medications from the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at two Pine Bluff locations.
The sheriff’s department mobile command center will be at the Brookshire’s store, 2800 S. Hazel St., and Pine Bluff officers will be at USA Drug, 1401 E. Harding Ave., to accept medication for disposal free of charge with “no questions asked.”
Getting drugs off the street and out of home medicine cabinets is the goal. Prescription drugs taken from homes often find their way to illegal distribution out on the streets. And where do teens find prescription drugs to experiement with? The home.
The rate of prescription drug abuse in our nation and in Jefferson County is high. Fortunately, Arkansas is the top state in its region for collecting prescription medication from the public.
Last year Arkansans turned in 11,924 pounds, or 16.6 million tablets, of prescription drugs at various sites operated by the DEA and more than 100 state and local law enforcement agencies.
Congress adopted the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010 to amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow an “ultimate user” of controlled substance medications to dispose of them by delivering them to police agencies.
Pending legislation would allow the expansion of the “Take-Back Day” efforts. That’s a real step that could save lives.