Catholic Charities SIS program ending after Cheektowaga pulls funding

CHEEKTOWAGA – Funding for a thirty-year-old Catholic Charities program that supports Cheektowaga school students in crisis has dried up with the recent passing of the 2019 Cheektowaga Town Budget.

The School Intervention Service Program serviced by Catholic Charities provided comprehensive counseling for any students and their families who attend schools within Cheektowaga, Sloan, or Depew.

Original plans called for the town council to reallocate nearly half of the $113,845 to the Cheektowaga Police Department.

Cheektowaga Supervisor Diane Benczkowski says the problems facing kids today go beyond dropout rates and the town’s leadership is looking at ways to curb today’s problematic issues like the opioid crisis and an increase in teen suicide.  She says today’s police force is better equipped than thirty years ago.

“Our chief of police is the state representative for the police organizations.  He’s on the cutting edge of mental health.  They know what they’re doing.  They’re right there when somebody is dealing with addiction,” says Ms. Benczkowski.

The council did an about-face a week before the budget vote earlier this month and reallocated all the money to a new budget line.  It will be held there until the police department presents their program and then the council could vote to move the money to fund the program.  The move was made because of a status request from Catholic Charities, as they too were finalizing their operating budget.

“I am saddened and disappointed to learn that the Town Supervisor and Council have chosen to eliminate the School Intervention Services program, despite the fact that this very effective service consistently met or exceeded outcome goals established for recipients of this service. It is also very unfortunate for the 275 students and families, all residents of Cheektowaga, who were served by this program,” Dennis C. Walczyk, Chief Executive Officer for Catholic Charities said. “Ease of access to much-needed counseling and support is diminished for Cheektowaga residents with the loss of the SIS program. I want to emphasize that Catholic Charities maintains a presence in the town at our new location in the AppleTree Business Park. Our dedicated employees will serve anyone and everyone of any age who is in need, albeit at a diminished capacity.”

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