Austin counseling service at risk of severe budget cuts
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The local nonprofit organization LifeWorks
provides services for at-risk youth and their families, but the group faces a major budget cut which could damage one of its main programs.
LifeWorks client Zadiah—who did not want to reveal her last name—relies on individual and group counseling sessions.
"We talk about my self-esteem and how to be more open and less uptight about stuff," she said.
The counseling at LifeWorks is made possible by STAR, or Services to At-Risk Youth. Funded by the Department of Family and Protective Services, STAR gives $500,000 each year to LifeWorks.
But the legislative budget board is suggesting shifting the STAR funding to the Juvenile Justice Department—meaning LifeWorks would lose out on the half-million dollars which funds counseling services.
LifeWorks' annual budget is $11.3 million. Two-thirds comes from federal, state and local grants, and the rest comes from private donors. LifeWorks officials say they need that federal funding in place before they can reach out for private donations.
"The leverage is already in place, if we lose this funding it will be very difficult to make up," Executive Director Susan McDowell said.
And a break in service could be difficult for the 600 families who would have to go without counseling. During just a brief break, Zadiah says her grades slipped and she became depressed.
"If it was gone for good, I don't know what I would do, I'd probably be devastated," she said.
The Texas House and Senate have to make the move to change the budget which could happen at any point throughout the session.
The decision wouldn't affect LifeWorks’ funding until September.