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DHHS: Move 3 Youth Centers to Sununu Center and Save Taxpayers $4 Million

May 20, 2010

CONCORD, N.H. - As legislators grapple with closing a $200 million budget gap, a proposal to save the state and taxpayers about $4 million per year is hanging in the balance. Diana Lacey, first vice president of the State Employees Union of New Hampshire (SEIU Local 1984), would like the state to approve the proposal.

The plan, from the Department of Health & Human Services, would let the contracts expire for a group of private centers that care for abused children and juvenile delinquents. The idea is to consolidate all of their services into one location, the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester, Lacey says.

"We have a federally-funded facility in the Sununu Youth Services Center that is state-of-the-art; it is already underutilized."

The Sununu Youth Services Center, which opened in 2006, serves as a youth center and shelter, providing school classes and groups for kids between the ages of 13 and 17. It is also the state's detention center for juveniles awaiting court appointments. Two wings of the center are empty at this time.

Lacey says moving the youths to one location means the state will no longer have to pay all the costs associated with three separate locations. The proposal is not going over well with operators of the private child care centers, however, who say they would be forced to lay off employees. That's something state employees understand, Lacey says.

"We've already lost hundreds of jobs. So we certainly empathize with the private contractors here who are concerned about having to lay off their own workers. But in these economic times, it's really important that government start working more efficiently."

According to Lacey, about 75 workers currently are on the payroll with the juvenile centers. She estimates that by moving to one location, they could work efficiently with about 30. The proposal to consolidate is included in the budget now headed to Committee of Conference.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH