Valley Mental Health officially took over Tooele County’s food bank, relief services, and domestic violence victim assistance programs on May 16.
Tooele County Commissioners announced in April that they negotiated an agreement with VMH to acquire the three social service programs from the county.
The change is expected to save the county over $150,000.
“This is the safest way to ensure that these programs continue to exist in light of budget cuts,” said Commissioner Shawn Milne.
Tooele County laid off 11 workers as the result of the change, and VMH in turn hired 11 workers to run the programs.
While the new positions for VMH were opened to the public, in most cases former county employees were hired, said Alex Gonzalez, VMH program manager for Tooele County.
For example, Lori Trujillo, former director of the Tooele County Food Bank, is the team leader for the food bank, while Jacqueline Motley, who was the coordinator for domestic violence and sexual assault victim advocacy in the county attorney’s office, will now continue to coordinate DVSAVA for VMH.
Mike Neil, caseworker for VMH, is the new team leader for VMH’s community resource center in Tooele.
The community resource center will take on the work of the former Tooele County Relief Services, which provided support for the homeless and families at risk of becoming homeless.
Karen Kuipers, who led Tooele County Relief Services since its inception in 2006, did not apply to work for VMH.
Kuipers will work for VMH for the next two weeks to help with the transition before she begins to look for new work.
“It is important to me that the people in the community that need these services continue to get help,” said Kuipers.
Neil came to Tooele two years ago to work as a case worker for Tooele County Youth Services. He is currently a case manager at VMH in Tooele. Neil is completing a bachelor’s degree in social work at Utah State University’s Tooele Regional Campus.
The resource center will continue to provide help for needy and less fortunate people, according to Neil.
“This is a good opportunity to make a difference in the community where I live,” he said.
At the food bank, VMH will be the third agency that Trujillo has worked for as a food bank director in Tooele County.
Trujillo directed the Tooele Food Bank when Salt Lake Community Action Program opened it in 1991.
In November 2007, Trujillo over saw the relocation of the food bank from the corner of Second and Maple streets to the former JCPenney building on Main Street after the county purchased the building in 2007.
In 2009, Trujillo became the manager of the Tooele County Food Bank when the county took over its operation.
Motley is a 14-year veteran of DVSAVA.
She coordinates a network of trained volunteers that provide assistance to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“We have volunteers that can come to the hospital and provide support to victims. They make sure victims know their rights and help them through the court process,” said Motley. “While our volunteers are not counselors, often times a victim just needs somebody to talk to.”
Currently located in the county attorney’s office, Motley expects little will change with her job — except moving to a new location.
Gonzalez announced a change in locations for several Tooele County Valley Mental Health programs that will help the food bank with its need for more room.
Tooele County Youth Services, operated by Valley Mental Health, will move into the space occupied by Tooele County’s joint information center at 27. S. Main Street. That location is in the former Mantes building immediately north of the Tooele County Building.
The resource center will move from its current location at 38 S. Main Street into 23. S. Main Street. That space in the Mantes building is now occupied by youth services.
The food bank, which currently shares the former JCPenney building with relief services, will then take over space currently occupied by relief services.
VMH will also make room in the Mantes building for DVSAVA. Gonzalez anticipates that the location changes will take place in early June.
VMH will assume the federal and state grants that pay for most of the operation costs of the three programs. VMH will need to raise around $185,000 annually to cover costs not covered by grants, Gonzalez said.
“We will continue to work with the Tooele Valley Community Cooperative on fundraising and grants,” said Gonzalez. “We also have opened up two new accounts, one for the food bank and one for the resource center. Any donations for the food bank or resource center will go directly into these accounts and will be used right here in Tooele County. The money will not go to Valley Mental Health in Salt Lake.”
VMH is a Salt Lake City-based non-profit organization that provides services for mental illness, substance abuse disorders, and behavior problems in Salt Lake, Tooele, and Summit Counties.