Several programs through Community Counseling in the Golden Triangle were taken away due to recent cuts in funding, and dozens who needed those services are now having to fend for themselves or find help elsewhere.
Lori Latham, Oktibbeha County Administrator for Community Counseling, said the Skills Workshop Program for the Developmentally Delayed, which taught individuals life skills, officially shut down Friday because the $85,000 annual funds for the program ran out. Latham said she won't know when more funds will become available to start the program back up again.
Latham said the 47 individuals who received services through the Skills Workshop Program were devastated when they heard the news of the closing.
“They were all upset,” Latham said. “They had these services, and them to have them jerked from underneath them was hard. A lot of these people are older and live at home, and some of their parents are not going to live long. Then what's going to happen to them?”
The individuals receiving services would come daily and to do sub-contract work, which they were paid for. They were also learning skills, such as those needed to hold down employment in the real world. Not only did this program teach individuals what they needed to know in real-life situations, it was also a place where they found new friends and bonded.
Kay Stanley, resident of West Point whose daughter attended the workshop for over ten years, said that friendship is something that was cherished.
“It's so sad because she want have any place to go in the day, Stanley said. “Her friends (were) there, and some of them don't have anywhere to go. She will miss them.”
Stanley, like so many other parents who supported the Skills Workshop, said her daughter really appreciated the program, as it gave her things to do during the day.
“It means a lot to have a nice secure place for your children to go,” Stanley said. “It made them feel good to have a little income. It boosted (my daughter's) self-esteem.”
Bertha Williams, whose daughter has been in the program for almost 20 years, said her daughter has also experience a great loss by the program ending.
“She didn't feel to happy,” Williams said. “I always try to tell her to be positive though, but she misses having somewhere to go.”
Community Counseling has also lost its Purchase of Service-Medication Voucher, which was a grant through the Mississippi Department of Mental Health that assisted individuals in paying for certain medications they needed. For those who didn't have a case worker to help them receives services such as Medicaid, the grant provided financial assistance to them. Latham said Community Counseling has been getting this grant for more than 20 years, and again, because of the lack of funds, this service had to be taken away. Oktibbeha County received almost $9,000 annually through this grant, and Latham said Clay and Lowndes Counties were receiving about the same.
The money for the Skills Workshop Program ran out the end of September, and the MDMH informed Community Counseling in August that funds would be taken away. Latham said she's hoping that a new program called Day Support will become available, which would teach individuals home economic skills, independent living skills, help them with budgeting, show them where to pay bills and other lessons.
Latham said it was hard telling the individuals that the program would cease.
“I love those folks,” Latham said. “That's why I came here to work, so, of course, I was going to let them know that the program was closing.”