Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Warren Co. program spared cuts for now

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LEBANON - After a closed-door meeting Monday with state officials, Warren County leaders said services from a program for 238 families with disabled babies would not be reduced soon because of funding problems.

Funding for Help Me Grow of Warren County will be worked out, and families will be notified this week that there won't be any immediate cuts, said Larry Sargeant, director of Warren County Community Services.

"The most impressive part is that there was a willingness to solve the problem from state officials and the county," he said after the two-hour meeting.

But the reprieve could be short.

County Commissioners Mike Kilburn and Larry Crisenbery are critical of the program. It might duplicate services other county programs already provide, they say. Both have indicated they would not support the program.

That would mean state-earmarked funds would go to other parts of the state.

Officials with the Ohio Department of Health's Early Intervention Program who attended Monday's session disagreed, saying Help Me Grow provides personalized care in families' homes for disabled babies.

Last week, however, the director of Help Me Grow, Carolyn Tepe, and Sargeant mailed letters to families in the program, warning that services might soon be cut because the county won't give the program access to its state money.

But County Administrator Bob Price said Help Me Grow has not been submitting applications for families that would be eligible for those funds.

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com.

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