TOPEKA (KSNT) — Across the board budget cuts this year are hitting many state agencies hard, especially those dealing with mental health care. After cutting nearly all their resources to the bone, one Topeka mental health agency is now struggling to even keep the doors open.
“This is like a home away from home,” said Terry Kerr, a client referring to the Sunshine Connection.
It’s a place for people with mental illness to come and connect.
“We just need some help,” said Betty Mach.
“We get help and we appreciate all the help we can get because there’s so many of us,” said Karla Norflis.
“My neighbor told me I growed up because I’ve been in Sunshine and I have growed up with Sunshine. It’s like a family here,” said Judy Hiller.
But because of recent cuts in state funding, that home away from home, that family and all its services, are in jeopardy.
“Sunshine connection used to be open five or six days a week. Right now we’re only open three,” said Judy Thompson, Director of the Sunshine Connection.
The cutbacks don’t stop there, now the agency even has to sell their two of their vans.
Vans that are used to bring people in for lunch, drive them to doctor’s appointments, or to pick up prescriptions and even groceries.
“They help us get in the community with our people and fight the stigma against mental illness,” said Thompson.
Now they’re down to one five seat mini-van but at least 40 people still need access to it.
And if there are any more cuts to mental health care, even the future of that van hangs in the balance.
“They’re talking about budget, funding cuts, which will cripple us,” said Kerr.
Without an increase in state funding the organization is looking for a miracle, a sponsor or sponsors, to help keep the lights on.
“Each day is a new day and we’d like to be able to keep open every day,” said Cara Talley, an employee.
The governor still has to cut at least $50 million from the state budget for this fiscal year.
He has not yet said where that money will come from including if there will be further cuts in mental health programs.