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Conway committee to vote on budgets

Special to the Union Leader

February 11. 2013 8:08PM

CONWAY - The Conway Municipal Budget Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on the proposed budgets of the town, school and precincts. The committee will also vote on its recommendations for the articles that will appear on the warrant in the March deliberative sessions of the town and school district.

In the past several weeks the committee has met with various entities and listened to, and asked questions of, the presenters. Those budgets will be presented to the public Wednesday.

On Feb. 6, Jane MacKay, an area director for Northern Human Services, had her turn in front of the committee. The private nonprofit offers services for those with developmental and emotional/psychiatric disorders.

MacKay presented the agency's request for $10,115 from Conway property taxpayers to the committee, telling the members that it has been several years since the agency has asked for funds from the town.

The appropriation request would help offset the cost of uncompensated mental health services for Conway residents. MacKay said the full cost of that care is $159,390, which represents 1,386 hours of service. Clients without health insurance, or with insurance that has a high deductible, pay on a sliding scale.

Among its services is a 24-hour emergency service system. The agency has sites in Berlin, Colebrook, Conway, Littleton, Whitefield and Wolfeboro.

Speaking before the committee, MacKay said at times there have been several mental health patients at once at Memorial Hospital, kept there because there were no beds available at New Hampshire Hospital in Concord.

In recent years, the Concord facility, which provides inpatient psychiatric services, has closed units, as have smaller acute psychiatric residential treatment units in hospitals around the state. About a decade ago the unit at the Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin closed.

On Monday, MacKay said that community mental health centers are coping with increased demand and decreased capacity.

Selectmen will finalize their budget numbers today at their regular meeting. According to Earl Sires, town manager, the total request from all the nonprofits is $198,615.

Conway residents go to the polls April 9 to voice the final opinion on funding local government and services. On Wednesday, the budget committee is holding three public hearings, starting with the precinct budgets at 6 p.m. in the Kennett High School's Loynd Auditorium. The town budget hearing is slated for 6:30 p.m., with the school budget getting its hearing at 7 p.m.

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