Comptroller hears local economic struggles
EASTON - Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot met with employees, board members and former clients of Channel Marker Inc. in Easton Tuesday as part of his statewide Economic Truth Tour.
The tour will stop in all 24 counties of Maryland as a way for Franchot to be educated directly from the "front lines" of local businesses about how they're doing in the current "soft" economic state.
"We're seeing a lot of pain and suffering in the countryside and I'm open to any ideas about what we can do to get through this rough patch," Franchot said.
He said the economic debate is very politicized these days and there's an air of unreality about the economy, which is why he's pleased to tour the state and hear directly from people and businesses who deal with economic struggles on a day-to-day basis. After the tour, he plans to use the information to work with other officials to get the state back to prosperity.
Channel Marker, located at 222 Port St., is a non-profit organization that provides preventive and rehabilitative services and programs to those with mental health disorders who are need of aid. Though Channel Marker gets a majority of its yearly budget from Medicaid, the organization sometimes needs to hold fundraisers throughout the year to maintain its basic functions and to meet the growing financial needs it sees each passing year.
Franchot said higher bureaucracies have a tendency to protect themselves and pass off what's left of budgets that have been cut down to lower-level services, like Channel Marker.
"The state needs to figure out how to get money direct to you instead of trickling down the food chain and there are some crumbs left on the table," he said to those in the room Tuesday.
Executive Director of Channel Marker Debbye Jackson said the organization serves the local community by helping those with mental disorders integrate into society, when they otherwise wouldn't be able to do so themselves. At the same time, Channel Marker also has an identity crisis of sorts because people in the community don't really know what it is or its mission.
"This organization has a soul and it revolves around the clients that we serve," Jackson said.
Jackson then expressed the difficulties of serving those clients with the limited funds provided each year. She said there also are new problems cropping up as clients become older and new health problems emerge, and these are not taken into consideration in the budget.
She gave an example of some older clients in Cambridge who live in two-story Victorian-style houses, but aren't able to climb the steps like they used to. There's no money in the budget to renovate those houses. She said the medical needs of clients are very important and taken into consideration regarding how they're cared for, but Channel Marker still isn't being compensated for it.
Franchot gave kudos to the Channel Marker staff for not only doing their normal work, but facing whatever else is delivered to their doorstep, despite the current economic state.
"Even in good times, I find that finances are a source of friction, but in bad times it really gets intensified," he said. "We have some hard work ahead of us if we want to get our fiscal house in order."