CMRC Survives For Now

With less than two months until the end of the current fiscal year, Mississippi lawmakers say the next budget year will likely be even more challenging.

Last month, the state legislature was able to balance the budget, but it wasn't easy.

Almost $400 million had to be trimmed from the state's budget. Amid the cuts, one local agency that was facing closure was spared.

Listed as one of ten mental health facilities proposed for closure in Mississippi, Central Mississippi Residential Center in Newton has survived, at least for now.

Recommended for closure by the governor due to a major shortfall in overall tax revenue, CMRC is remaining open but must now work with less.

"We are being cut overall about $1.5 million from last year, but again, we have put in place a number of cost reduction strategies," said Debbie Ferguson, CMRC director.

Debbie Ferguson, who is director of the center, says those strategies include: cutting medical costs by strictly providing only acute care instead of long-term chronic care and not filling some positions when they become vacant.

"So many of our clerical and support service staff, they now spend half of their day assisting and providing some direct services to clients," said Ferguson. "So, we're all pitching in and doing different things. Nobody has just one job."

Although CMRC is now open, at least for this year, it's not out of the woods just yet. In fact, state Sen. Videt Carmichael of Meridian says the next budget year is expected to be even worse.

"Well, stimulus money goes away, and that's millions of dollars that we will not have to plug into the budget," said Carmichael. "And unless our economy picks up nationwide, much less here in Mississippi, it's going to be ugly. Nothing is safe."

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