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Mental health providers prepare for big cuts

READ MORE: Mental health providers prepare for big cuts

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- It's not looking good for mental health providers in the Cape Fear. The Southeastern Center for Mental Health says it anticipates some big budget cuts next year.

With the state facing another budget deficit, SECMH, which allocates funding for mental health in our area, says services could take a big hit. Mental health provider met in Wilmington Friday to discuss the current and projected budget crisis.

"There's just not enough money to deal with everyone who needs service," Southeastern director Foster Norman told providers. "So it really comes down to rationing care."

Norman said the number of people serviced during the first quarter this year more than doubled from last year. He said Southeastern expects a possible $1-1.8 million budget deficit next year.

For those with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance abuse problems, service providers said the current budget cuts are not allowing them to provide optimal service to their clients

"This is the challenge that they face in terms of how to look at someone that they care a lot about and tell them that their services have been reduced or perhaps reduced all the way to nothing," service provider Tommy Puckett said.

After the meeting, providers split up into small groups to discuss prioritizing the budget. Providers like Donald Hoover said their biggest worry is not being able to help those who need their service.

"We had to cut our clients down from 35 hours of service to 20 hours a week, so we took a pretty sizeable hit on that hours wise," Hoover said.

Because of the anticipated budget cut, Hoover said his organization is not going to depend solely on funding from the state and is now searching out funding on grants and several other foundations.

Norman said Southeastern is planning for three different budgets: one for the same amount of funding as last year; one reflecting a 10-percent cut; and another with a 15-percent cut.

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