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Teen Counseling Funds Bog Down

June 22, 1996|STEVE RYFLE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A nonprofit program helping troubled teens with drug and alcohol problems for more than 10 years may be shut down because its funding source is mired in red tape, the program's administrator said.

On July 1, Van Nuys-based Bridge Focus Inc. will lay off as many as 13 counselors and staff members if its substance abuse prevention program is denied all or part of the $230,000 contract it has applied for with the Los Angeles County Alcohol and Drug Administration.

Richard Hill, Bridge Focus' chief executive officer, said the county has long supported the drug and alcohol program. But now, the agency is competing for funds with 150 other counseling services as a result of a new county policy that emphasizes community-oriented counseling over one-on-one sessions.

Hill said he warned the staff about the layoffs this week because the end of the agency's fiscal year is approaching, and the county failed to notify him in May, as promised, if the contract will be renewed.

Lydia Becerra, a spokeswoman for the alcohol and drug program administration, said processing the applications has been delayed by changes in the county's counseling needs and by the time required to investigate the agencies that have applied.

Becerra said it is unknown how soon the contracts, which still must be reviewed and approved by the Board of Supervisors, will be awarded. She said the county told its contracted counseling services in March to tell clients that the current program would end in July and to advise them about other nonprofit services available elsewhere.

Hill said Bridge Focus has done that, but he is concerned about what will happen to the 150 teens who receive counseling at low or no cost.

If included in the new county program, Bridge Focus would change its counseling strategy but could still retain several counselors on staff who could also provide one-on-one substance counseling under a another, privately funded program. Without the grant, the counselors will be cut, said Hill.

Bridge Focus' other counseling services, including parenting education, job training and family intervention, would not be affected, Hill said.

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