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Child and Family Services to ask towns for financial help at annual meetings

Child and Family Services of New Hampshire is reaching out to several Merrimack County towns at this year’s town meetings for funding for the first time as the organization expands its work here for children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

The organization primarily provides mental health care and counseling for children and families in the state, and in July was granted the contract for adult in-home care in Merrimack County as well.

In the last six months of 2013, the group provided in-home care to 89 Merrimack County adults.

“Our clients are very low-income, frail and disabled elderly adults who, without our services, would need to leave their homes and apartments and go into assisted living or nursing home care, at a much greater cost to the community,” said Ruth Zax, the agency’s development director.

The organization receives money from Granite United Way and more than 50 towns in Strafford, Belknap and Coos counties, and the city of Nashua.

“But what’s been happening over the last several years is state and United Way funding and other funding sources have been decreasing, while the slow recovery has kept more and more families under greater amounts of stress, so our case loads have been rising,” Zax said.

Representatives from Granite United Way couldn’t be reached for comment.

Zax and several volunteers looked at where the most new clients live, and how to apply for funding from those towns through town meeting. Though the organization serves the whole county, the group decided to apply for aid first from four towns and one city: Allenstown, Henniker, Loudon, Pembroke and Franklin.

So far, they have not found a very receptive audience.

The town ballot Allenstown voters will see at the polls next month says neither the budget committee nor the board of selectmen recommends approving the $3,500 request.

Though he agreed the cause is noble, the agency appealed to the town too late in the process, Selectman Jeff Gryval said at the deliberative session earlier this month.

In Pembroke, town officials refuse all such requests by private nonprofits, said Selectman Fred Kline.

“There’s a ton of nonprofit groups in all of our communities, sports like softball and groups that want to save the endangered things, and as selectmen it gets difficult,” Kline said.

“We deal with taxpayer money, and who am I to deal with taxpayer money to save something in particular, when the next nonprofit can come in then and say you set precedent. . . . It’s horrible if someone falls on bad times and can’t afford food or electric or heating oil, but that’s why we have the welfare department.”

Child and Family Services is particularly looking for help from Merrimack County towns for its counseling services, Zax said.

The counseling program costs the agency about $90 an hour, and insurance reimbursements tend to be between $45 and $65 an hour, she said.

Individual clients pay a fee based on a sliding scale of income and family size, ranging from $5 to $25, she said.

“Insurance plans never cover the total costs, so we’re behind the 8-ball in many instances already,” she said, “but we don’t want to turn anyone away because generally we seem to be the go-to organization for those who really don’t have anywhere else to go.”

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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