Once saved, the Matrix House may have to be cut after all if city has to make cuts to fill budget hole
Matrix House widely praised for rehabiliation of people with drug and alcohol problems, sheriff says it "saves lives"
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The city may have another big hole to fill in it's budget and it could lead to the closing of the Community Transition Center.
The city council finance committee found out Wednesday that the city may have to fork out more milliions to pay for workmen's comp claims.
Police officers and firefighters have filed an increasing number of employee disability claims for heart disease and high blood pressure.
The city's risk management department says those workmen's compensation claims could cost an extra $7 million to $8 million in next year's budget .
That could cost the sheriff's office almost $4 million, and Sheriff John Rutherford would have to come up with a way to pay for it.
He told the finance committee he might be forced to close the jail that rehabitates drug addicts, known as the Matrix House. He was able to save the drug treatment program for the upcoming year when he convinced council members to give him the ten and a half millon dollars he was able to save this budget year. The money also avoided police officer layoffs.
Rutherford has often praised the drug treatment program that serves 350 inmates a year and turns many lives around.
John Scarborough just got out , in for 120 days after his fourth DUI. He called it a great program with hard working counselors. He says it gave him the tools he needs to carry on his sobriety. Scarbourough says closing it would be bad.
"I would hate to see that happen. I got a lot out of this program , a facility like this needs to be open, needs to stay open for people like me who have problems. "
Scarborough at first felt he should not have been sentenced to the program, but it turned out to be a blessing.
"Absolutely, probably saved my life and somebody else's life."
The sheriff meanwhile is frustrated and angry over the latest budget situation. He says this $8 million hole did not exist a month ago when the budget was set by the mayor's office. He says he was told no when asked for proof of how they came up with the numbers.
" They just put numbers in the system and I have to pay it, this time I want the proof, show me the backup," Rutherford said. "This is serious money that is going to have serious impact on public safety. I am not buying the numbers until they show me the calculations and the methodology."
Councilman John Crescimbini expressed disappointment that there was another big surprise in the budget process. He says the numbers for the disability claims are premature, he and the other members of the finance committee asked for auditors to go over the numbers and come back with a more definitive report in two weeks when the finance committee meets again on September 18th.
First Coast News