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Southside job cuts on the way

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Budgets trimmed

  • Southside job cuts on the way
    The Youth ChallNGe Academy program in Milledgeville, located on the old Central State Hospital campus, is on the chopping block and expected to close later this year. CHRISTIAN MCKEARNEY/Staff

Around the old Central State Hospital campus, it’s beginning to feel a lot like 2009 all over again.

Budget cuts and job losses around Central State, a common theme during The Great Recession, once again are up for discussion. State agencies currently are in the process of trimming an additional 14 percent off of their fiscal year 2021 budgets, as requested by Gov. Brian Kemp.

The Youth ChallNGe Academy, located inside of the old Boland Building, is slated to close later this year, according to the Georgia Department of Defense’s current budget proposals. The closing will equal the loss of 54 jobs. Youth ChallNGe is a National Guardsponsored boot camp-style “voluntary 17-month dropout recovery program that helps at-risk youths earn their high school diploma or GED,” according to its website.

Youth ChallNGe currently operates three campuses – one at Fort Gordon, one at Fort Stewart, as well as the one here in Milledgeville. The Fort Gordon campus is expected to downsize, while the Ford Stewart campus is expected to remain fully operational, according to the state Department of Defense.

Meanwhile, employees at the Cook Building and Central State Hospital were informed last week of impending austerity cuts and job losses. Judy Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities, recently sent an email to staff and employees, announcing that the agency’s “proposed budget cuts include…the elimination of approximately 397 positions, of that number an estimated 282 are filled.”

The 282 job cuts are statewide and are not exclusive to the Cook Building and Central State Hospital, a DBHDD spokesperson told The Baldwin Bulletin.

“The memo was sent to all DBHDD staff, and all numbers discussed therein are agency-wide,” said Angelyn McDonald.

Already dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak around the Cook Building, the month of June is slated to become even more stressful for CSH and Cook Building employees.

“They say if we are called to Human Resources before or on July 1, they will be letting us go,” one employee told The Baldwin Bulletin earlier this week.

More than 800 people were employed by DBHDD in Milledgeville, as of April of this year. Those jobs primarily are at the Cook Building, which serves as a maximum security facility for criminal defendants deemed “not fit to stand trial” by a Superior Court judge. Numerous support jobs for the Cook Building are located in the Allen Building and several other facilities on the CSH campus.

Along with other mental health treatment programs, including River Edge Behavioral Health here in Milledgeville, DBHDD operates four traditional mental hospitals – East Central Hospital in Augusta, Atlanta Regional Hospital, Savannah Regional Hospital and West Central Georgia Regional Hospital in Columbus.

The General Assembly, which hasn’t convened in person since March, is expected to review the budget proposals at some point in June.