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Peterborough

Layoffs due to shrinking funds hit MFS employees

Monadnock Family Services will be eliminating 22 full-time and part-time staff positions as it scales back on the level of service it can provide due to ongoing cuts in funding from Medicaid and other sources.

Phil Wyzik, the agency’s chief executive officer, said Monday that the cuts affect counselors, case managers and support staff. He said four of the positions are based in Peterborough.

“Ever since 2008, we’ve seen a gradual decline in funding,” Wyzik said on Monday. “Private dollars have been shrinking, which puts us in a very tight spot. Now we have no choice but to reduce staff.”

The most significant change, Wyzik said, is that the organization will no longer be able to provide mental health counseling to those who don’t meet the state’s eligibility criteria for services. Wyzik said the state will only reimburse for services to those whose mental illnesses are essentially disabling.

“If you don’t fall in to that category, we’ve tried for many years to provide counseling and psychotherapy. Now the funding is drying up,” he said.

In addition to eliminating outpatient counseling for those who don’t meeting the state criteria, MFS will now require state-eligible clients who had been getting clinical services in Jaffrey to come to the Peterborough office.

Funding cuts in Medicaid from 2009 to 2012 reduced the organization’s annual income by $1.2 million, Wyzik said, and payments from commercial insurance have been insufficient.

The agency is also scaling back its Supported Education program, which is based in Keene and provides help for adults with severe mental issues in returning to the workforce. Seven part-time positions in that program are being eliminated.

Monadnock Family Services is one of 10 community mental health agencies in the state. It offers services annually to approximately 800 children and youth who have serious emotional and behavioral problems, and serves close to 1,900 adults through a variety of counseling and support services.

“Our mission is to focus on kids and adults whose conditions have caused major disruption in their lives,” Wyzik said. “That’s the core service we have to preserve and maintain. We’re not stopping emergency services or crisis service, but we can’t do long-term counseling.”

He said MFS recently expanded its pediatric psychiatry service for state-eligible children and teens, adding a board-certified child psychiatrist to the staff.

Wyzik said the issues MFS faces are seen throughout the state.

“I don’t know if any others have announced staffing reductions, but everyone is being squeezed,” he said. “It’s unclear what will happen with Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire, which is frugal with state funding. There’s still a big community need. If we can figure out a way to find money to treat people, that’s what we’ll do.”

Wyzik said staff will be working with clients to find other options since the agency will no longer be able to see them.

“We don’t want to abandon anyone,” he said.

MFS’s Monadnock Adult Care Center in Jaffrey isn’t affected by the layoffs.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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