Reduced county funding leads to cuts at JF&CS

By Eric Berger, Staff writer

Jewish Family & Children’s Service has eliminated 10 positions after St. Louis County reduced its funding to the agency. 

The county, through its Children’s Services Fund, had allocated $2.75 million to the Jewish nonprofit in 2015 but reduced that funding to $2.5 million for 2016, according to JF&CS, which provides a range of social services including food assistance and mental health counseling. 

The fund had increased the amount it awards to local organizations in recent years, after county officials hired a new executive director, Connie Cunningham, and directed her to make better use of an $80 million surplus. 

Although JF&CS received additional funding in 2015 and increased the number of services it provides, the agency had been aware that the county would likely reduce funding once it had exhausted the surplus, JF&CS executive director Louis Albert said. The surplus stemmed from a sales tax that county residents approved in 2008.

Albert said because of the $250,000 reduction in funds, cuts were spread across the agency. JF&CS eliminated eight part-time positions and two full-time positions and reduced the number of hours for eight other staff members. After the cuts, JF&CS will have 56 employees, Albert said.

“For our clients, for our staff and for our agency, it’s a very difficult situation,” said Albert. 

For example, people who need psychological testing and assessment services or counseling for their children could face a wait time of several months because of the cuts, Albert said. The organization will try to connect clients with other agencies if they are able to provide services quicker than JF&CS.

Despite the cuts, Albert remained upbeat.

“We still have an enormous capacity to deliver services; it’s just less than we had been at,” he said.

The Jewish Light could not reach anyone for comment at the Children’s Services Fund, but the organization sent a statement that it “used a data-driven approach in its decision making this cycle, and grants were given based on merit and need in the community.”

Allison Blood, communications coordinator for St. Louis County, stated in an email that all local agencies were affected by the cuts. 

The staffing cuts have already affected some clients. Jason Barton, 47, arrived at the JF&CS office in Creve Coeur Friday, Dec. 18 for a weekly dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) class and learned that the meeting had been canceled. Barton has been on disability for depression for the last three years and has not worked during that time. 

In April, he started attending the DBT class, which helps people with a variety of mental health problems. He said that it has helped him and that he is considering driving for Uber, the ride-hailing service.

Barton, who is Jewish and lives in the Central West End, said there are usually 10 to 15 people at the class and described the reaction as “universal shock.”

“There were a lot of people in the group who really have to rely on the program more than I do,” he said.

Albert said the DBT class was scheduled to end Dec. 31 and that JF&CS has notified its participants that a new group, which would have started in 2016, will not be offered. The agency is also working with each client to refer them to other treatment resources in the community, he said.