Weather Forecast


Wadena County social services expects disproportionate cut

Wadena County can expect cuts to its human services programs this Legislative session, according to Paul Sailer, the county's human services director.

The governor intends to support K-12 education costs, Sailer said. Human services is the next largest chunk of the state budget and will likely receive an "out-of-proportion" share of the reduction.

"So we need to just accept reality that sometime in the spring we're probably going to be notified that some programs will end suddenly," Sailer told the social services board at its January meeting.

Sailer presented the 2007 Minnesota County Human Service Cost Report to inform the new commissioners about human services programs and to update the entire social services board about potential cuts to certain services this year.

General Assistance Medical Care is one program that officials at the Minnesota Department of Human Services are saying may be cut, he said. If so, beneficiaries would be moved to MinnesotaCare, a program with a much more limited benefit set. GAMC serves around 160 people in the county between the ages of 21 and 65 who are typically single and low income, Sailer said.

Health programs make up the largest share of the human services costs, Sailer said, and this is where the Legislature is going to concentrate its cuts.

Health programs constituted 56 percent of the total $8.5 billion human services costs in Minnesota in 2007. Social service programs made up 34 percent with the remaining 10 percent going to support programs.

The total cost for human services in Wadena County in 2007 was $32.5 million. The county's share was $2 million with state and federal dollars paying roughly equal amounts of the remaining funds.

Health programs such as GAMC, MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance in Wadena County total $21 million. Wadena County funded $308,000 in 2007.

The next largest share of human services is made of social service programs such as children's services, chemical dependency, developmentally disabled, child care, mental health and adult services. Counties pay for 18 percent of the cost of social service programs.

"On almost $3 billion of expenditures ... the county share in Minnesota is really quite large," Sailer said about social services programs.

Of the nearly $8.5 million spent on social services in Wadena County in 2007 the county contributed $1.5 million.

Children's services cost Wadena County $960,000 out of the total $1.7 million cost in 2007. Federal and state funds covered $401,000 and $228,000 respectively.

Mental health is an area where the county share is pretty high, Sailer said. One of the reasons is the county has to pay 100 percent of the cost when someone is placed on a hold order because they're dangerous to themselves or someone else.

Wadena county paid $202,000 out of the just over $1 million cost of mental health services in the county in 2007.

Chemical dependency is an area that has experienced decreasing funding, Sailer said. A typical client is a single male between the ages of 18 and 27 who is generally low income. The state doesn't tend to spend much money unless the person is very low income, he said.

The largest portion of the cost for social services goes to people with developmental disabilities, Sailer said. In Wadena County $2.5 million is spent for around 60 people with developmental disabilities.

"The public doesn't tend to understand that a very small portion of our population ... costs the largest amount of money in social services," he said.

Most of the cost for these services, such as those offered by the DAC in Sebeka, is covered by MA, a federal program, he said. The county share is fairly small at about $128,000 in 2007.

The next largest group served by social services is the elderly, Sailer said. These costs will grow as the elderly population in the county grows.

Although many people associate support programs such as food stamps with human services, these programs make up the smallest share at less than a billion dollars for Minnesota, Sailer said. In addition to food support other support programs include Minnesota Family Investment Program, Minnesota Supplemental Aid, General Assistance, Group Residential Housing and child support.

Some of the smaller state support programs are ones that are in danger of being cut, Sailer said.

Food support is a pretty good sized program that is largely funded by the federal government, he said. The program spends $1 million in the county.

"This is going to your grocery stores primarily in the county, although some is spent outside the area," he said.

Child support enforcement is a big federal initiative, he said. The federal government paid $303,000 out of the nearly $394,000 cost of the program in 2007. The county paid a much larger share of the remaining cost than the state.

The county received federal cuts in this program last year, Sailer said, and that is why social services recently replaced a retiring child support officer with a support enforcement aid.

Sailer said state cuts to Wadena County Social Services will depend a lot on the federal bailout. How quickly that moves through Congress will have some affect on how soon the Legislature starts acting on things, he said.

"Hopefully, that won't take too long because the session is over in May," Sailer said.