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State senator asks Legislature to examine ‘soft social services’

In a committee meeting today, state Sen. Joe Negron made clear that he wants legislators to take a hard look at social services in order to determine whether the state will continue funding them.

During a Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Appropriations meeting today, Negron, the chair of the committee, said that social services in the state are not “services,” but are financial “investments.”

Negron, R-Palm City, said that programs such as Head Start, which he referred to as “soft social services,” should be treated like investments. ”They are like Goldman Sachs,” he said.

Negron, who is a key player in deciding which public programs receive funding, said he was skeptical of services that did not provide “hard” services, such as “fixing broken bones.” He asked the committee to take a hard look at these social services and evaluate whether they are worthy investments.

Negron cited Head Start and D.A.R.E as examples of services that do no have a good return on investment. He mentioned a study that says students in D.A.R.E. programs eventually end up taking more drugs than students who do not go through the program. He said he did not want to continue spending money on those types of programs just because it “makes us feel good.”

“The idea that we can crowd people into a space and indoctrinate them with ideas, make it exciting, make it noisy, have shirts, have balloons and your child has been baptized and is now drug-free … I wish it were true,” he said. “I wish that was the way life worked, but it isn’t the way life works.”

Public health spending saw big cuts this past year. In particular, services for women and children are suffering through a significant reduction in state funding.

Negron said that in the months to come, the committee should make sound financial decisions about the state’s social services.

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