Critics expressed dismay and shock this week over plans to stop funding a program that connects people recovering from mental illness with those struggling with psychiatric disorders.

Seventeen full- and part-time jobs for peer counselors are scheduled to be lost in the Ventura County Behavioral Health Department, effective July 1.

In the wake of that announcement made last week, about 10 people expressed their opposition at a meeting of a mental health advisory board in Oxnard. Among them were peer counselors, an administrator and an Oxnard woman who said her counselor helped save her life when she was suicidal.

“It’s a major, major tragic cut,” she told the board.

The former electronics worker has weathered anxiety, depression and the effects of a stroke. So it helped that her counselor was a cancer survivor who had not only faced mental but physical illness, she said later.

“If someone lived it, went through it, maybe there is a chance for me to come out of it and try to recover,” she said.

As part of budget cutbacks of $3 million, Behavioral Health Director Elaine Crandall has decided to eliminate $980,000 in funding for the program.

Also on the block are $1.3 million for a parenting education initiative for school-age children and $450,000 for a court-supervised treatment program for juvenile offenders. Another $250,000 would be shaved from a program aimed at…

Mayra Rodriguez

Mayra Rodriguez

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Mayra Rodriguez