Updated

MHMR cutting 19 jobs

By KELLI LEVEY

Eagle Staff Writer

The Mental Health-Mental Retardation Authority of the Brazos Valley is eliminating 19 full-time jobs this month to save nearly $609,000 in next year’s budget, officials said Thursday.

Administrators, program supervisors, custodians, nurses and secretaries were among the positions eliminated, said executive director Leon Bawcom.

Bawcom said he planned to tell the affected employees Thursday, giving them two weeks’ notice and “some kind of severance package.” He wouldn’t specify what type of package would be offered.

The agency had 224 full-time positions before the plan was approved, but the agency’s state funding was cut more than $900,000, Bawcom said.

The board of directors approved the reduction in personnel and the upcoming year’s contracts Thursday, but they don’t plan to approve the final 2004 budget — projected to be about $10 million — until Aug. 20.

The plan approved Thursday called for cutting 26 positions then adding seven others to accommodate changes in some programs, Bawcom said. Those seven are case managers and rehabilitation workers, who are qualified mental health professional with bachelor’s degrees and counseling experience.

Bawcom said he hopes when all the changes are made, only about eight or nine of the employees will be left without jobs. He said he plans to ask the Brazos Valley Workforce Center to assist them in finding other jobs.

Dorothy Morgan, chairwoman of the board and the Washington County judge, said the decision to cut the employees was difficult, but not as hard as when the authority cut 48 positions last August.

“It’s never clear-cut on these types of decisions because you’re dealing with people,” she said. “This is the second time within almost just a year that we’ve had to do this and it’s tough, but you can’t spend more than you’ve got.”

One change approved Thursday alters the services offered at a residential unit at 623 Mary Lake Drive. The facility already had shifted heavily toward long-term assisted-living services for those with chronic mental illness but now the beds that had been dedicated to short-term “crisis respite” will be switched to long-term use, as well.

To help compensate, the agency is “beefing up the crisis network team” and adding two crisis workers to work in the six surrounding counties, Bawcom said.

“That means if someone is seen in the emergency room or at a state hospital, they’ll get a 30-day follow-up at our facility rather than staying on Mary Lake,” Bawcom said.

The only other facilities in this area that provide residential services are Twin City Mission and the St. Joseph Behavioral Unit in Navasota, he said.

• Kelli Levey’s e-mail address is klevey@theeagle.com.

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