SERRC's adult ed, computer classes may end

Social services advisory board turns down 12 city block grant requests

Posted: Monday, April 26, 2004

Juneau residents may not be able to take adult education and computer classes through the Southeast Regional Resource Center anymore if the Juneau Assembly passes the latest block grant funding recommendations, an agency official said.

The Social Services Advisory Board is recommending that SERRC get no block grant funding for the fiscal 2005 and 2006 years. This would mean an end to SERRC's adult education program at St. Vincent de Paul in the Mendenhall Valley, said Carin Smolin, adult programs administrator for SERRC. It also may result in charging residents to take its basic computer classes at the Juneau Adult Education Center downtown, she said.

"The impact is significant and it's really a shame," Smolin said Friday.

SSAB issued the recommendations Wednesday, but couldn't vote because it lacked a quorum. Its recommendations will go before the Assembly Finance Committee on Wednesday. The full Assembly will make final funding decisions.

Sixteen agencies applied for 27 grants. SERRC's was one of 12 grants that was turned down by SSAB.

Agencies applied for $1 million in grants but only $567,400 is available from the city in fiscal 2005. That same amount is available in fiscal 2006.

The focus of the grant applications was behavioral mental health so agencies that showed a stronger funding need in that area were scored higher than SERRC's education-based programs, Smolin said. SSAB scored the grant applications.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in Juneau will continue struggling to offer its family therapy and intervention program after SSAB denied its $45,000 grant request, NCADD Executive Director Matt Felix said. SSAB did recommend that NCADD get $25,000 for its Community Smoking Prevention and Treatment Program.

SSAB makes grant recommendations every two years to match the city's two-year budget cycle. The city's fiscal year runs July 1 to June 30.

"We have an extremely high alcohol consumption rate here in Southeast," Felix said. "We're the main agency to get a family member into treatment."

Smolin and Felix say they are already hurting because of state funding cutbacks.

The state Department of Labor already reduced the adult education program at the Southeast Regional Resource Center last year by $50,000, Smolin said. SERRC applied for $48,128 for the adult education program and $19,619 for the computer classes.

At NCADD, the state eliminated funding for the family therapy intervention portion of a community prevention grant last year, Felix said. The city block grant would have hired a certified substance abuse counselor for that program, he said.

NCADD staff has been administering family therapy intervention after hours to meet the needs of the community, he said.

Smolin said she may have to charge residents $100 to $150 a month for the computer classes, but questions if she'll get enough students because they are generally from low-income households.

Felix and Smolin said SSAB's recommendations were fair compared to two years ago when controversy erupted over the grant process.

This year SSAB officials met with agency leaders to go over the grant application process and work out any problems.

SSAB President Michelle Casey said agencies submitted better applications and received higher scores than two years ago.

"It made life a lot easier for us to see where we need to go," she told the board Wednesday.

SSAB recommended no funding for the following grants as well:

• Boys & Girls Club, Community Mentoring, $25,000

• Catholic Community Services, Dad's Outreach Project and Young Parent's Center, each $25,000; Family Support Services, $50,000

• National Senior Services, Foster Grandparents/Senior Companion, $24,800

• SHANTI, HIV/AIDS Prevention, $49,980

• Southeast Alaska Guidance Association, Serve Alaska Youth, $50,000

• Alaska Legal Services, Mental Health Legal Initiative, $50,000

• Gastineau Human Services, Case Management for Single Parent Families in Recovery, $50,000

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com.



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