Groups Fear State Cuts Could Crush Them

By: Lauren Zakalik Email
By: Lauren Zakalik Email

The "Michigan Youth Challenge Academy" in Battle Creek is credited with turning around the lives of nearly 2,000 troubled teenagers, like 16-year-old Micah Passerby of Charlotte.

"[I was] not taking the right path, doing the wrong things," he tells us at a rally Tuesday.

"Realistically, Micah was looking at a group home, a long-term detention center or group home," says his mother, Brenda.

Those are no longer possibilities, because Micah claims the non-profit program has rehabilitated him.

But because of the budget situation, others might not have that same chance.

"The funding in the state in the passed senate budget has been zeroed out," says Rep. Kate Segal, (D) Battle Creek. "There's no state funding for the program. And it's a wonderful program that costs just $1 million," with a federal match of $3 million.

Film industry workers and mental health advocates are also in a similar boat, holding protests Tuesday.

Their funding faces possible cuts, too.

"If we can't provide help for folks, a number of individuals will cost the state far more in terms of ER visits and hospital trips," says Michael Vizena, executive director of the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards.

"Clearly we don't want to put the citizens of Michigan in danger," Governor Jennifer Granholm says.

But Governor Granholm is making it clear a mix of hard cuts and solid revenue makers must be enacted to fix the $2 billion deficit.

"Things people have grown to expect will go into hibernation or be cut completely," she says.

If that happens, at least as far as the youth program goes, Brenda Passerby fears the worst.

"Kids will be in jail. We're going to overload jails, put kids in detention centers, kids on the street," Passerby says.

Human side effects, she says, of balancing the budget.

The budget needs to be passed by Sept. 30th to avoid another state shutdown, like the one that occurred in 2007.


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