Bucking the recommendation of a House committee, a key state official said it is unrealistic to defund the Sununu Youth Service Center without an alternative in place.
Joseph Ribsam Jr., director of the state Division for Children, Youth, and Families, said it makes sense to plan for a smaller, secured facility for troubled youth. But a defunding plan endorsed by the Division III House Finance Committee is unrealistic, he said.
“It provides nearly no funding for (a) secured setting after June of next year and insufficient time to develop an appropriate and viable alternative,” he said.
Earlier this week, the chairman of the committee said the Legislature has been urging DCYF to close the center for 10 years to no avail.
“The Legislature is essentially saying enough is enough,” said Rep. Jess Edwards, R-Auburn. His committee recommended zeroing out the Sununu Center budget in July 2022, which would save about $13 million a year.
The committee endorsed the plan in a unanimous, bipartisan vote.
The Sununu Center, which is in the North End of Manchester, was built for 140 residents; it usually houses between 10 and 16.
Ribsam said the state has worked hard to reduce the number of children in the Sununu Center, and the census should fall further as a system for youth behavioral health continues.