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Islip officials to vote on layoffs Tuesday

Islip Town Hall in an undated photo.

Islip Town Hall in an undated photo. Credit: Erin Geismar

The Islip Town board Tuesday is to vote on the first round of layoffs resulting from a cost-cutting plan to dissolve its human services department.

Board approval would cut all four positions from Islip's TASA, or Teen Age Services Act, a program for pregnant and parenting teens, which saw state funding end in December.

Town officials said TASA costs $428,038 per year to run. Since December, its 60 pregnant or parenting teen clients have been referred to other agencies, such as the Family Service League, said town spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia.

"It's a lot of work to make sure someone is placed appropriately and in the best possible way," Birbiglia said. "This is not something you do callously or randomly or arbitrarily."

If approved, the job cuts would take effect Aug. 20.

Islip's TASA program, which helps pregnant teens and teen parents with counseling and assistance, was one of a few left in the county, said Marcia Spector, director of the SNAP (formerly Suffolk Network on Adolescent Pregnancy) program and a member on the statewide advisory board that created TASA in 1985.

"We will see more young women dropping out of school, more subsequent pregnancies that are shortly after the first pregnancy, and probably a higher incidence of domestic violence" as a result of TASA cuts, Spector said. "Whether the town or someone else provides it, the services need to be provided."

Town officials said the departmental reorganization could save $1.6 million in 2013 to help plug a $26 million budget shortfall. In April, Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt said the department has 113 full- and part-time employees and cost $4.8 million annually to run.

Another resolution Tuesday would abolish all positions in the department, effective Nov. 1. Human Services acting Commissioner Carol Charchalis said she doesn't know how many jobs will be lost, and is meeting with town departments to find vacancies.

"It's going purely by seniority," Charchalis said. After Nov. 1, she will become deputy parks and recreation commissioner.

In the most controversial element of the reorganization, the town plans to return control of Access/Acceso, a popular bilingual drug and alcohol counseling program, to the county.

Nurse-therapist Rebecca Harris, of Acceso in Brentwood, said she doesn't know where local and bilingual clients will turn for services, especially with long waiting lists at many private counseling agencies.

"That's the big question," Harris said Friday. "People keep saying there's plenty of stuff out there for them -- where? And how are they going to get transported there?"

After a group session Friday, client Jennefer Germosen, 28, of Central Islip, said she doesn't know what she'll do when Acceso closes.

"I recently relapsed, so I still need to stay in the program," said Germosen, who is working to regain custody of her six children and battle her drug addiction. "I need the program. . . . I'm sad, I like my counselor a lot -- she feels like home."

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