Originally created 10/12/03

Edited budget saves clinics



ATLANTA - Mental hospitals in Savannah and Columbus would be spared under revised budget recommendations to be considered Wednesday by the Georgia Board of Human Resources.

Board members and outgoing Human Resources Commissioner Jim Martin went back to the drawing board during the past several weeks to find other ways to meet spending-cut targets set by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The revised budget also would restore funding reductions that the Department of Human Resources staff had proposed for treatment of AIDS and cancer screening.

"This board has a tremendous commitment to meet the needs of people," said Chairman Bruce Cook, one of six new board members.

Last month, the reconstituted board put off voting on $101.5 million in cuts recommended by the department's staff for this year's budget and for fiscal 2005, which starts July 1.

The reductions were to comply with Mr. Perdue's order for state agencies to cut spending by 2.5 percent this year and an additional 5 percent next year to offset the effects of declining tax collections.

Among other things, those cuts would have meant closing Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah and West Central Georgia Regional Hospital in Columbus and shifting those mental patients to Central State Hospital in Milledgeville.

Mr. Cook said the new plan would avoid reducing services that directly affect care by increasing efficiencies within some programs, streamlining the department's administrative functions, instituting fees for some services, substituting federal funds for state funds whenever possible and eliminating prevention programs that haven't shown results.

Reach Dave Williams at (404) 681-1701 or davemns@mindspring.com.