COLLEGE PARK – Local agencies devoted to helping youth are asking for help of their own in getting promised state funding. Four youth service bureaus (YSBs) in Prince George’s County are lobbying the office of Gov. Larry Hogan to release approximately $600,000 budgeted for YSBs. All five of the YSBs in the county, including those […]
COLLEGE PARK – Local agencies devoted to helping youth are asking for help of their own in getting promised state funding.
Four youth service bureaus (YSBs) in Prince George’s County are lobbying the office of Gov. Larry Hogan to release approximately $600,000 budgeted for YSBs. All five of the YSBs in the county, including those run by the cities of College Park, Greenbelt, Bowie and District Heights, were removed from the list prepared by the Governor’s Office on Children (GOC) of YSBs that would be getting a share of the $1.8 million designated for the purpose by the General Assembly in the state budget. YSBs in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties were also affected, according to Peggy Higgins, director of youth, family and senior services for the city of College Park.
“That was quite a shock. These are critical services. To be so suddenly losing these resources is devastating to families and children,” she said.
Higgins said for every one dollar of state funding received, the YSB can marshal four dollars from other sources.
“It has created a ripple effect so it’s actually $3.4 million budgeted for children that are not being released by the governor,” she said.
Liz Park, director of the Greenbelt CARES YSB and chair of the Maryland Association of Youth Service Bureaus (MAYSB), agrees that the loss of funding will have negative impacts in the county.
“These funds have allowed us to serve families county-wide. Because we received state funds we are able to serve folks outside of Greenbelt. If we don’t get the money, we will only be able to serve Greenbelt residents with our city funds,” she said.
YSBs across the state offer services such as counseling, crisis intervention, suicide prevention, alcohol and drug counseling and programs in schools and provide referrals to other sources of help.
Higgins said the partnership between the state and the local YSBs has been ongoing for 40 years, and in the past, if a YSB was being cut from the list, they would be notified before budget negotiations concluded in the General Assembly. But this year, Higgins said none of the YSBs that were removed were notified. They only found out because they were not listed among those getting funding in a GOC press release, she said.
Erin Montgomery, a spokeswoman for GOC, said YSBs were informed in September 2015 that the state would be making changes to ensure greater accountability from fund recipients.
“Vendors were encouraged to work with their local management boards (LMB) to ensure they were meeting a critical need in the community and able to demonstrate that their programs were effective. Therefore, vendors were given nine months to prepare,” she said.
She said the decision not to fund these YSBs “was based solely on the demonstrated ineffectiveness of the mental health services being provided.”
“All YSBs are required to meet nationally recognized mental health service standards (as measured by the Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale tool (CAFAS), a nationally recognized, standardized instrument used to inform the focus of treatment and to monitor change in behavior over time). The YSBs that did not receive funding had not met these standards,” she said. “Local Management Boards throughout the state had repeatedly attempted to work with the poorly performing YSBs in their jurisdictions to improve quality of services. The YSBs were not meeting standards despite ample time and opportunity.”
But Higgins said the metrics used to determine low performance were incomplete. She said only one of several metrics CAFAS measures were used to determine effectiveness, while the makers of the tool themselves say multiple measures should be taken into account.
“They never recommend that you use just one data point. You’re supposed to use these data points collectively,” she said.
Montgomery also said the LMB for Prince George’s County submitted an inadequate proposal that “presented a single program with multiple vendors and did not differentiate between the vendors” and what each one specifically would be accomplishing.
The county’s LMB is working to get the funds released. In an effort to help, College Park and other municipalities, working with MAYSB, have written letters to the governor asking him to release the funds and are encouraging citizens to do the same. They have also reached out to state legislators, who have called a hearing in Annapolis on the issue set for Aug. 3 at 1:30 p.m.
Park said she is hopeful the hearing will lead to answers and results.
“We hope the governor will release the money and allow the services to continue,” she said.
Montgomery said the governor’s office is still deliberating over whether to release the funds.