COVINGTON, LA (WVUE) - Nearly a dozen St. Tammany nonprofits are having to do more with less because of cuts imposed by the parish. Many are not pushing the panic button just yet, but if a 1/5 cent sales tax isn't passed soon, they say consequences may follow.
Each year, the Covington Food Bank serves 5,000 people out of its warehouse near the St. Tammany justice center. But that mission is getting tougher.
"It would be very difficult if it continues," said food bank Director Terri Turner-Marse.
The parish has had to cut $50,000 in funding to the food bank and more than $200,000 in funding to the St. Tammany chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI.
"We're looking at every cut we could to keep running these programs," said St. Tammany NAMI Director Nick Richard.
Those cuts hurt programs that provide housing and counseling for the mentally ill, as well as support services for families in need.
"The housing programs, if there's not some resolution in funding, I don't know what else to do," said Richard.
St. Tammany has one of the highest suicide rates in the state, and services for the mentally ill have also become a challenge.
"These individuals, if they are not getting treatment and care, they're coming in touch with law enforcement," said Richard.
In all, 11 parish nonprofits, have had to absorb more than $700,000 in cuts so that the parish could fund things like jail medical services that went unfunded after voters twice rejected a justice center tax.
"Those type things create challenges for us to meet the needs of the community, said Richard.
Though the food bank and the dental outlet are feeling the pinch, they remain committed to serving as many Washington and St .Tammany parish residents as they can.
The Covington food bank's dental clinic has proven to be vital for those who can't afford private care. It took a $35,000 hit from the parish.
"We're being very vigilant in watching our expenses and trying to make sure the revenues continue to come in to subsidize the loss we're incurring," said Marse.
NAMI isn't sure how much longer it can provide housing to those struggling with mental illness. But if funding is not restored by the start of the new fiscal year in July, Nick Richard worries that many in need will go unserved.
St. Tammany Parish is going back to voters in March to try and pass the 1/5 cent sales tax.