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Budget cuts force cancellation of candlelight vigil

| Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2003

The candlelight of ARC Manor's annual vigil recognizing National Impaired Driving Prevention Month was put out this December.

After four years of bringing the victims, whose lives have been affected by impaired drivers, together to grieve, the agency's candlelight vigil had to be cancelled this year because of state budget cuts.

"We were very sad about not having it," said Kay Owen, ARC Manor executive director.

Owen said the budget for ARC Manor's drug and alcohol prevention programs in Armstrong County was slashed by 50 percent.

"The prevention specialist who organized the vigil had her time cut in half," Owen said. "She is devoting 100 percent to drug prevention in the schools.

"She's swamped with work and can hardly keep up."

This has been a busy year for ARC Manor counselors. In addition, some counselors left the agency and those positions were not filled.

"We couldn't take treatment people away from their work (to organize the candlelight vigil)," Owen said. "You can only spread people around so far."

Owen hopes a MADD chapter can organize in the county and take over the annual candlelight vigil. ARC Manor would act in support of the chapter and help it to organize future vigils.

"People who have lost someone grieve silently," Owen said. 'That's part of why we did the vigil.

"They tell us it was nice to know someone cared."

Recent good news in Harrisburg could have an impact on ARC Manor's programs.

The state senate has passed a budget that restored 90 percent of the funding for drug and alcohol programs, Owen said.

"We're living with 50 percent right now," Owen said. "This will be an improvement."

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