Sannicandro looks into limiting social services Thursday, August 4, 2005
David McLaughlin 508-626-4338 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- State Rep. Tom Sannicandro is considering filing legislation to curb the growth in individual communities of social service agencies, which are drawing increasing criticism for overburdening Framingham.

Sannicandro, D-Ashland, said he wants to create incentives for the agencies to spread out their services, possibly by limiting how much money the state can spend on social service programs in any one city or town.

"It's not that I'm against these organizations, and what I'm hearing from the community is that they're not against them either.  They're trying to get some equity," he said.

Sannicandro said he hopes to file legislation in the fall after researching whether Framingham in fact has a higher concentration of social service agencies than other communities.

Framingham's social service providers, particularly Wayside Youth and Family Support Network and the South Middlesex Opportunity Council, have been under fire lately for proposed expansion projects.  A new study committee has begun work on determining their impact on the town.

Gerard Desilets, planning director for SMOC, credited Sannicandro for raising these questions, but said people should not be prevented from receiving "necessary and very critical" services because of a cap placed on providers.

"An artificial cap on service providers doesn't really look at the question of community needs.  Therefore, I don't think it's something that makes sense," he said.

Sannicandro's idea is to set some kind of limit on the number of agencies located in communities.  He is also suggesting a threshold for how much money the state spends on social service programs in cities and towns.

The state Department of Public Health, for example, contracts with SMOC to run its Sage House, which is moving to the former Framingham Nursing Home on Winter Street.  That proposal has drawn strong opposition from neighbors.  A spokesman for the department declined comment about Sannicandro's idea because the legislation has not been filed.

"The programs follow the money.  Since the state controls the money, it can spread it around the commonwealth," Sannicandro said.

State legislators, he said, are also planning to overhaul the funding formula for state aid known as Chapter 70.  The changes, he said, could include a provision that would send additional money to communities based on how many nonprofit organizations are located there.

"If Framingham is doing all this, and people are right, we should get support from the state for doing this," he said.

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