TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Quick Facts:
- The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health announced deep budget cuts last week.
- The Help in Crisis center in Tahlequah will have to close a nearly 30-year-old program and let go of four employees.
A child abuse and domestic violence prevention program that's been in Tahlequah for nearly 30 years will soon have to close thanks to deep budget cuts at the state Department of Mental Health.
Officials at Help in Crisis' Helping U Grow program said they serve 138 children, but won't be able to serve any in three short weeks.
The program first began 27 years ago. It's a preventive home visitation program that provides a variety of resources, child screenings and parenting classes to at-risk families in Cherokee County.
Last Monday, the program's operators learned that they will have to close their $200,000 contract for Helping U Grow and let go of four employees on Nov. 15.
One of those employees is program supervisor and coordinator Sarah Frankie.
"Right now I'm just trying to focus on what we need to do for the families. I honestly haven't even updated my resume. I'm just trying to get packets and the courage to talk to these families without tearing up, because a lot of them have been in the program for almost five years," Frankie said.
Directors at Help in Crisis are holding out hope that something may change and allow them to save the HUG program. However, they are concerned about the future of Oklahoma should drastic cuts to mental health services continue.
"We're setting ourselves up for a perfect storm in Oklahoma. It's not going to be tomorrow, but down the line. You take out prevention and you take out counseling services, I mean, we're setting them up for a big storm," said Executive Director Laura Kuester.
The Tahlequah employees are just four of the nearly 8,500 people across the state expected to lose their jobs because of cuts to mental health services.
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