As the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor’s Office congratulate each other for avoiding any city layoffs in their midyear proposals to close a $45 million deficit, the UCSF Trauma Recovery Center will close its doors in March.
The center, located at 2727 Mariposa St., will lay off its staff of 12 and will stop giving counseling and case management services to their 750 clients they see each year if the proposal goes through.
The closing of this popular center, praised by the health department and seen as the model for three other proposed centers in California, shows that the city will no longer fund programs created by the state and gives a hint of coming budget negotiations.
“It is a difficult decision,” said Greg Sachs from the Department of Public Health, which funds the program. “The time has come where we have to sort of face the reality of our financial situation.”
The program faces a midyear budget cut of $347,529, in addition to the $750,000 cut it received at the beginning of the year, effectively eliminating the program.
Sachs said that the patients would be able to go to similar programs like the rape treatment center, which is in the same building as the trauma center, or CASARC, which serves children and adolescents who are victims of sexual assault.
Alicia Boccellari, the director of the Trauma Recovery Center, countered that these providers don’t offer comparable services to the recovery center.
City institutions like the board, District Attorney’s Office and the Mayor’s Office have praised the recovery center, while Governor Schwarzenegger cut funding for the program in 2007.
After the center lost the $1.5 million in funding from the state, the city picked up the tab because it was seen as a vital program, public health officials said.
After funding the program for two years, and a multimillion-dollar budget gap, the city can no longer afford to do that.
“We are now at the point where the department has or feels that, given the state has not shown any interest or ability to fund the program that we cannot afford to continue backfilling,” said Greg Warner, the mayor’s budget director.
State Senator Mark Leno has taken an interest in funding the center and creating three others throughout California when he introduced SB 733 early last year. Even if the bill passed, the center will not see that money until next year and funding will only run for three years.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said that the Department of Public Health has been consistently trying to get rid of the trauma center and may finally have done so.
“It seems like there is a repeated effort to make it go away for quite some time,” Mirkarimi said. “I wish that it was prioritized a little bit differently in the city.”
The center is not the only state health program to lose city dollars. The state drug Medi-Cal reduction will lose half a million and substance abuse and crime prevention programs will lose $1.2 million.
Despite opposition from the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor’s Office does not need the board’s approval for the cuts.
The center, which serves victims of violent crime, did their own research and found that their program reduced homelessness by 41 percent and increased the number of police reports by their clients, according to Boccellari.
Supervisors Mirkarimi and John Avalos, who heard testimony on the subject on Wednesday at a Budget and Finance Committee meeting, want to keep the center operating.
“I don’t think it’s as inexplicable as the paper makes it sound — why the homicide rates have dropped — but the T.R.C. and the other partners are why I think violent crime went down in the city,” Mirkarimi said. “These are partners that really help with the collateral consequences of violent crime.”
That is the case with Larry Wilson, a patient at the recovery center.
After his son was murdered in a road rage incident in 2007, he said he wanted to kill someone to avenge him.
“I was driving around looking for someone to pay,” he said. After receiving one-on-one counseling these thoughts have gone away and he has accepted his son’s death, he said.
He added that he still calls the center once in a while and is very thankful that he found it.
Meanwhile Boccellari said she has seen other cases like Wilson’s, where young men who suffer gunshot wounds have fantasies of retaliation.
“It’s great that [the city] is funding public safety agencies,” Boccellari said. “But what about the victims?”
correction: an earlier version of the article had said that SB 733 had passed. The bill is currently in the state senate’s appropriations committee awaiting passage.