Gov. Harry Hughes ordered state officials yesterday to make $325,000 available so that Montgomery County's only residential center for severely emotionally disturbed youths will be able to operate at full capacity.
The $2.1 million originally allotted, for personnel at the new Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents in Rockville would have enabled the center to serve only 24 of the 43 Montgomery and Frederick County adolescents originally selected to live at the center.
The center's day program, scheduled to open with 50 students Sept. 2, would not have been affected by the funding shorage.
Parents were first notified of the possible shortage of beds in July. Many had sent their children outside the state for care and viewed the new facility as a means of keeping their children close to home but under fulltime care.
They launched an extensive lobbying campaign and barraged county and state officials with pleas for help. Yesterday, those pleas were answered.
Citing a deluge of mail and a committment to honor a long-standing promise to Montgomery residents, Hughes directed officials of the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to find the $325,000 in their existing budget to finance the residential program.
Earlier in the week, mental health officials had said there were no unallocated funds in the budget.
"The state must honor the commitment made to parents of severely disturbed children in the area who had been promised at least 48 residential beds," Hughes told the officials.
According to mental health officials $75,000 originally earmarked for a mental health screening project in Montgomery County will be diverted to the project. Other sources of revenue have yet to be determined, mental health officials said.
For the weary parents, Hughes' announcement was a surprise and a welcome relief.
"I'm really happy the funds have finally been given." said Linda Swanson, "but, I'd like to know why we had to go through all this turmoil for such an insubstantial amount of funds. Are we going to have to go through this again next year?"
Program officials expect all residential students to be housed at the new center by the end of October.