Lower social service spending still supports 26 projects in Naperville

 
 
Updated 12/3/2015 4:42 PM
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  • The prescription overdose prevention campaign KidsMatter launched last month in Naperville will continue next year, as the city council has granted it $25,400 in social services funding.

      The prescription overdose prevention campaign KidsMatter launched last month in Naperville will continue next year, as the city council has granted it $25,400 in social services funding. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

Like nearly every area of Naperville's next budget, the social services grant had to be trimmed to help rebuild reserves and reduce debt.

Naperville lowered spending in most areas to fill an $8.2 million gap before approving a $429 million spending plan for 2016.

With that approval came review of the next round of grants designed to fund emergency services, self-sufficiency programs and assistance for youth, seniors and people with mental health conditions or disabilities.

The grant will support 26 programs next year with a total of $475,000 -- down $25,000 from the amount given the past two years.

Of that total, $50,800 is allocated to the council's special projects: mental health awareness and drug abuse prevention. KidsMatter and the National Alliance on Mental Illness' DuPage branch will split the money to fund a campaign against "accidental drug dealers" created when people leave prescriptions unsecured and a school connections program that provides mental health education in Naperville classrooms.

The $25,000 cut to social services is less drastic than what originally was proposed: a reduction of $250,000 that would lower the pot by half and bring the grant back to the level where it was set in 2005.

Council members didn't want to see their support of social service agencies slashed so drastically.

"It's just hard when you see all the applications," council member Becky Anderson said about the requests from 33 programs seeking a total of $963,742. "It's hard to award only $250,000 when you see all the need out there."

So far, seven programs were denied funding -- two within the mental health and drug prevention realm and five in the grant's general category.

Representatives of several of those projects pleaded with the council Tuesday to grant them some money, especially because their budgets are hurting from missing state payments.

Nonprofit leaders asked for money to support adult day care for seniors with Alzheimer's, after-school programs for teens and support for families after a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss.

"I wish we had more money to give to all of you, but the need is great and the resources are not enough," council member John Krummen said.

The seven unfunded projects still could receive some support because $25,000 of the grant remains to be allocated.

That's because the $25,000 the council decided to cut came from what was planned as a $50,000 reserve to allow the city's elected leaders to respond to emergencies or fund new projects throughout the year.

Mayor Steve Chirico suggested the council look to the reserve as a way to lower spending on the grant. The council decided to remove half of the reserve and allow staff members to provide recommendations in January for how to dole out the remaining half -- instead of keeping it free to use later.

"I hate to sit on it when it might mean one more person or two more people might get helped," council member Kevin Gallaher said.

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