Palmer program facing layoffs

First Posted: 1/15/2009

LUMBERTON -- The executive director of Palmer Prevention Inc. says that, without a $25,000 match from the county, the organization might lose a grant from the Governor's Crime Commission and be forced to lay off four full-time employees.
Tom Norton told the county Board of Commissioners on Monday that Palmer Prevention has treated 194 people so far this year, which is more than it treated in 2000-2001. He said Palmer has treated that number of people on a budget about 25 percent less than the previous year.
The board unanimously passed a motion by Commissioner E.B. Turner that the issue be taken up during the commissioners' budget workshops, which begin May 21. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Noah Woods.
Norton said that he'll lobby other local governments if the county can't come up with $25,000. He said the money is critical because, in the coming fiscal year, he expects further cuts from the state, the United Way and the Lumber River Council of Governments.
Palmer Prevention employs 14 people at its offices in Lumberton and Pembroke. Asked if the employees who could be laid off are counselors, Norton said it's too soon to say.
Norton said Palmer could bill Medicaid for the services it provides but chooses not to because it costs Palmer Prevention more in taxes and costs the county money.
“But the main thing with Medicaid is you have to open up a legitimate record,” Norton said. “A child who is 15 or 16 years old and gets a Medicaid record opened up for substance abuse, he's marked for the rest of his life as a drug abuser.
“If you have a substance-abuse diagnosis, there's a lot of kids in this county like me, whose only chance of going on to higher education is to eventually go into the military,” he said. “This automatically knocks you out of going into the military. We keep medical records, but it's between us, the kids' parents and the child.”
If Palmer loses the grant, it would lose funding for the Governor's Crime Commission's Child and Adolescent Teen Services program.
Norton brought to the meeting two teen-age boys who said they have benefited from Palmer's programs. One was from the Black Ankle community, the other was a transplanted Idahoan who has been in five treatment programs. The teens said Palmer has helped them stay off drugs because, unlike at other places, the counselors at Palmer seem to genuinely care.
“They give you love, respect and care,” said the boy from Black Ankle. “It gives you that extra incentive to want to go on. …
“I have a steady job now and a steady relationship, and I'm planning on going to college,” he said. “I want to be a paramedic. Before, I had no plans. I had what my daddy had, and that was a disease.”
$25,000 to RCC
The board approved a motion by Woods to give Robeson Community College $25,000 to help the college conduct its search for a president to replace Fred Williams, whose contract expires Sept. 30. The money will be taken from the county's fund balance.
The money will be used to hire a consultant from the North Carolina Association of Community College Trustees for $19,000. Woods said the consultant can use the balance for expenses.
Woods said that, although RCC board Chairman George Regan talked about trying to raise money from the local business community to hire a consultant, the board never voted to do so.
“If the community college had the money, they wouldn't ask for it,” said Woods, who also serves on RCC's board of trustees. “They didn't have it, so that's our obligation. That's the right way and the appropriate way to do it.”
Another Floyd update
The commissioners received an update from Jan Hester, regional planning director of the Lumber River Council of Governments, on the Hurricane Floyd crisis housing assistance funds program.
The council awarded rehabilitation bids to six different contractors to fix 10 homes damaged by the hurricane. The bids were received on April 30.
The council has completed 49 of 53 bids to rehabilitate homes damaged by the hurricane. The rehabilitation work is scheduled to be completed by November.
According to information provided by Hester, COG has completed two of 41 home replacements. Seven homes are awaiting delivery and seven families who have been awarded replacement homes have yet to decide what kind of home they want.
The council expects to have all replacements complete by the end of July.
The commissioners unanimously agreed to allow Richmond County to join the Lumber River Council of Governments. COG has been administering Richmond's Older Adults program since January 2001.
Richmond is also a part of the Lumber River Rural Transportation Planning Organization, which also comprises Robeson, Hoke and Scotland counties, all of which are member governments of COG.
Other business
In other business, the commissioners:
-- Agreed to appoint Marion Jones to the county Social Services board. Jones will replace Lucille Watson, whose term ends June 30. The motion was made by Turner.
-- Unanimously agreed to advertise for a new director of the county landfill. Red Baxley is retiring July 1.
-- Unanimously agreed to lease the Purvis School building to the Carolina Youth Action Association, which endeavors to start programs for youth and “older adults.”
County Attorney Hal Kinlaw will hammer out the particulars of the lease. Interim County Manager T.Y. Hester said the contract will probably be similar to one written for a project run out of the Oak Ridge school.
-- Passed a resolution allowing the county to act as a “fiscal conduit” to receive a grant from International Paper Co. and disburse the money to the Allenton Fire Department, which applied for the grant.
Commissioner Tom Taylor, chief of the Allenton Fire Department, did not vote on the matter.
“One of my firemen works for International Paper and we applied for a grant through them,” Taylor said. “We hadn't gotten our tax-exempt form. They called and wanted to know if the county would be the agent. It's a 100 percent grant; it doesn't cost anybody anything.”
Commissioner Raymond Cummings didn't attend Monday's meeting.

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