Wallowa County Department of Youth Services Director John Lawrence addressed the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners Monday morning on the subject of state budget cuts and how they will effect his department. Though the news was not good, it was better than in many other Oregon counties.
Lawrence said that the monetary impact to his department if the state tax measure is defeated Jan. 28 would only be $1,863. He said the biggest impact would come in the cutback of available detention beds at various facilities across the state. Of 1,100 youth currently in detention in facilities across Oregon, 250 would be released early because there would be no money to keep them in custody.
He said that 50 beds would be emptied at Burns, 75 at Warrenton, 75 at Albany and 50 at the Ochoco facility in Prineville.
He spoke of shelter beds, contracted beds and foster beds that would also be eliminated.
Lawrence was of the opinion that juvenile offenders with burglary II and under offenses would be released into the communities. Sex offenders would not be released early, he said.
"The main effect is a lack of access to available funding and the lack of beds," Lawrence told the commissioners. "Without funding or beds we will need to develop programs in the community."
He suggested that comparable budgetary constraints will be facing adult corrections facilities and mental health programs as well.
Commissioner Ben Boswell stated that there are seven youth corrections facilities in the state currently and five of them would be closing if the Jan. 28 tax measure does not pass. The two facilities retained would be the two larger facilities, MacLaran and Hilcrest. He later corrected himself to say that five out of 12 facilities would be closed.
Lawrence and Boswell were in agreement that Wallowa County uses their allotment of juvenile detention beds sparingly. "We send very few to the correction facilities so it will not effect us very much," said Lawrence.
On a more positive note Lawrence introduced Lisa Lively from his office who spoke on the three- year-old Youth Employment/Enrichment Program which she coordinates. She said that in the first quarter of the year 15 youth had worked successfully through her program. Most of the 15 were at-risk teenagers offered employment opportunities on a five week basis, 15 hours per week with the program picking up wages for the first $500 earned.
In Lively's assessment of the program 14 of the 15 youth demonstrated an increase in work skills, attitudes and behaviors.