Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Plainfield Budget 2009: Dudley House

Dudley House is one of only two half way houses in Union County for people recovering from chemical dependency. The other one, Flynn House in Elizabeth, is privately funded and uses no government monies. They are both much needed.

Dudley House is disadvantaged in that it is run by a city. The kind of mission driven leadership, volunteers and private donations that are needed for an operation like Dudley House are most likely found within not for profit organizations. Dudley House, in the hands of Plainfield municipal government, has been able to tread water at best. This year Dudley House is experiencing city management at its worst. I feel strongly that Dudley House needs to either transition into a not for profit corporation or be taken over by an existing one.

Dudley House is facing a $150,000 operating deficit because it has lost two Union County grants that have sustained it for many years. Mayor Robinson Briggs and her team are proposing that Plainfield taxpayers take on this burden, even though not all of the half way house residents are from Plainfield. They propose this as bridge funding until we can get our county grants back. City Administrator Dashield recently assured the Council that "it looked very positive" to get the grants again. I decided to do my own research. My sources tell me that getting county grant funds back for 2008 will not happen. 2009 funds will only be available from the time of ADA compliance - so not anytime soon.

There are 15 organizations in Union County that receive alcohol-drug abuse services funding through the county. All were informed over 5 years ago that continued funding was contingent on obtaining a state license from the Division of Alcohol. Each was given until 2007 to comply. All the other grant recipients were able to get their licenses. Plainfield did not comply because Dudley House did not meet the handicapped access requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Plainfield asked for an extension but was refused because no steps had been taken in the direction of compliance.

This problem came to light at a Council meeting in early 2008 when the Mayors team said the future of Dudley House was uncertain. This led to a groundswell of community support from half way house graduates who explained it's positive impact on their lives. At that time the Mayor made a promise to address the problem at hand. That was the last the City Council heard until last weeks budget presentation when the administration asked for $150,000 on top of the traditional city contribution of $28,000.

What is the future of Dudley House? How can we bring it from it's current budget crisis back to financial health. In the long term, the city must act quickly to engineer a take-over. I know some qualified organizations that are capable of running Dudley House. Failing that, a new not for profit can be formed. There are many people in the community who feel passionately about it.

Meanwhile, Dudley House needs to be sustained in the short run. Perhaps our state legislators can come up with emergency funds. Think of all the charity care dollars that are no longer available to Plainfield residents due to the closing of Muhlenberg Hospital. This is a cause worth fighting for but should Plainfield taxpayers shoulder the whole burden?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Cory for the insights on the city budget mess.

Your idea of asking our Assemblyman work hard for the needed funding is a really good idea.

I personally can't see ourselves pay any higher taxes for the few services we receive in return.

Thanks again.

Maria Pellum