Funding terminated for 2 Bay area rehab centers

- Two rehab clinics helping low-income residents in Polk County were de funded by the county's commission Tuesday.

Since 2010, 85-percent of Hope Now's drug rehab programs in Bartow and Lakeland were funded by the county.

After a 4 to 1 vote Tuesday, county commissioners said it would no longer provide the $800,000 per year it once did through the indigent health care tax. 

After a report from the inspector general in January showed sloppy financial records, conflicts of interest by board members, a lack of fundraising and inappropriate spending by the centers' Executive Director Dr. Joseph Cox. He was fired when the report was released.

Some, including commissioners, say the report was cause for de funding the centers. 

Others say Hope Now rehab clinics saves lives and families and should be maintained. 

Tania Kocher said she went from feeling like a criminal and drug addict to having faith in herself after completing treatment at a Hope Now clinic. 

"Definitely made me have a different perspective in life. Made me feel important... Not like I'm just a criminal or a drug addict. I felt like a real person," Kocher said.

Kocher came to Tuesday's commission meeting hoping to change the minds of commissioners.

However, most commissioners' minds were made up. 

"Constitutes abuse of county funding. That's enough for me right there to vote for termination," a commissioner said during the meeting.

"I have lost complete confidence in this program," another explained.

Marcus Stern is Hope Now's Interim Executive Director. He explained what he believes closing the centers will mean for the community.

"So, this is heartbreaking for me... We're not going to be able to serve the capacity of people we've been serving," Stern said.

He hopes someone in the community will step up and invest in Hope Now to keep it going. Until then, he has to find similar programs to help the 26 men and women currently at Hope Now clinics.  

"Know this: our commitment is to make sure you guys have everything you need. We're gonna take care of ya," Stern said.

Hope Now says it has 60 days to move its current patients. Most of Hope Now's residents are there by court order.

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