Family Counseling Service Loses United Way Funding

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The United Way of Northern New York has pulled its funding from an agency which offers mental health services, including counseling to victims of domestic violence and sex abuse.

Family Counseling Service of Northern New York received a letter saying the United Way's board of directors "agreed to not fund Family Counseling for the June 2013 - May 2014 program grant year."

It's not just the rejection that is raising eyebrows, it's also how the bad news was delivered.

The letter suggests Family Counseling has been less than forthright about its financial situation.

"After being a United Way partner over 50 years, yes, it seems a little harsh," said Lisa Weber, a board member for Family Counseling.

Family Counseling has been having financial problems and is considering a merger with another agency.

Still, the United Way news came as a big disappointment for a group which says the need is greater than ever.

"In the last three years, we have more than tripled client visits, so we know the need is there," said Weber.

The group received $49,000 from the United Way the previous year and requested another $10,000 this year.

The letter from Jane Schmitt, chair of the United Way Board of Directors, criticized Family Counseling's handling of finances.

"We cannot support programs and services of any type that continually run deficits and who do not have a solid plan for financial stability. Family Counseling has had more than enough time to achieve such a basic goal," the letter reads.

But Weber says the situation is not the disaster the letter portrays.

"We lost $5,600 last year. For a non-profit, it's not that bad."

Weber said Family Counseling is facing the financial challenges because it provides immediate crisis counseling, even to those who can't pay.

The letter, though, lectures the organization for doing that.

The letter also scolds Family Counseling for its apparent failure to inform the United Way that it was seeking a loan from the Watertown Local Development Corporation, also known as the Watertown Trust.

"We know that you are beginning a process of potential merger with another organization and would suggest that you be completely forthright about your finances with whatever organizations you so choose to begin a conversation," the letter reads.

Family Counseling is planning to make up the $50,000 loss in funding with a fund drive and a strategy to get more reimbursement from insurance companies.

7 News was unable to immediately reach anyone from the United Way for comment.

See the letter

Thursday, July 31, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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