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Tooele County cuts more jobs, privatizes local poverty assistance

Published: Thursday, April 18 2013 6:53 p.m. MDT

TOOELE — Citing "a major financial crisis," Tooele County will no longer publicly subsidize its food bank, transitional housing, emergency poverty assistance or domestic violence assistance programs, opting instead for an agreement with Valley Mental Health to privatize those services, officials announced Wednesday.

Eleven county employees also will be laid off as part of the privatization, which begins May 15 after a transition period.

Valley Mental Health will consolidate the various functions and rebrand them as the Tooele County Food Bank and Resource Center. County officials said the scope of the services will not be reduced, and they will remain at the same location, 38 S. Main.

“Tooele County is in the midst of a major financial crisis,” said Tooele County Health Department spokesman Wade Matthews. “There are currently more expenses than revenues. The (Tooele County) commissioners are hoping to reduce expenses, and that’s why we’re making these cuts.”

More than 60 other county jobs have been cut in recent months due to drastic drop-offs in revenue. The laid-off employees were encouraged to reapply for 11 nearly identical new positions at Valley Mental Health, which has contracted with the county for psychiatric services in the past.

“We’re hopeful they would apply and be selected for those positions,” Matthews said.

Valley Mental Health also holds contracts with Salt Lake and Summit counties and the Utah state government.

Travis Jackson, the nonprofit organization's business development director, said Valley Mental Health is eager to address the need and in a better financial situation to do so.

“(Tooele County) approached us and said, ‘Hey, can you run these programs? We want to keep them available for our citizens. We can’t just totally cut them,’” Jackson said. “We figured we could do it without affecting taxpayers. It’s probably easier for us because of economy of scale.”

Services include temporary housing, transportation, food, clothing and professional counseling costs for victims of domestic abuse, the homeless and in some cases recovering drug addicts. The food bank typically provided assistance to more than 600 families per month.

Matthews said residents shouldn’t lose out on assistance they’ve relied on in the past at the consolidated Tooele County Food Bank and Resource Center.

“The transition should be seamless,” he said.

Email: blockhart@deseretnews.com

Twitter: benlockhart89

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