April 20, 2011
LIMA — State budget cuts for public health would lead to fewer families obtaining immunizations for their children, less preventative health care for women and fewer services for children with medical handicaps, Allen County Health Department officials said Tuesday.Gov. John Kasich's proposed budget would cut $150,000, more than half, from two grants the health department receives for things such as birth control, pap tests, breast health exams, and screenings and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. It also makes other cuts that will lead to layoffs by July when the new state budget takes effect, and turn full-time, full-service programs into part-time endeavors with large service gaps, Health Commissioner Dave Rosebrock said.The expected cuts frustrate Rosebrock and Nursing Director Becky Dershem because without the services, families, governments and health care providers will see greater expenses in unwanted pregnancies, STDs being spread, children developing vaccine-preventable diseases such as mumps, chicken pox and whooping cough and women entering hospitals with late-stage cancer.“Prevention pays for itself multiple times over,” Dershem said. “Because instead you have people coming to the hospital as a train wreck: sick children, advanced cancer, unwanted pregnancies.”State grants provide nearly half the department's funding. Like many other agencies and departments are seeing, the cuts come at a time when demand for services is increasing, Dershem said. The Childhood Immunization Clinic averaged 1,300 shots a month in 2010 and saw about 150 more patients than previous years. The Family Planning Clinic saw 510 additional patients in 2010 and provided 4,847 visits.The cuts also come at a time when existing services in the community are strapped. Health Partners of Western Ohio, the region's federally qualified health center, has more patients than it can handle and St. Rita's Medical Center recently closed a community health center, leaving about 4,500 people without a health care home.“The increase is coming from families who are working full-time, even two jobs, and either have no insurance or catastrophic insurance with high deductibles,” Dershem said. “These are not all poor people. They are people who are poorly insured.”Since 2008, the department has steadily lost funding. It has gone from about 75 employees to 63. It has consolidated services, closed locations outside the main East Market Street office and eliminated services and positions, such as a nurse who did mother and infant home visits. Rosebrock said the department is looking at three or four layoffs, but without better certainty in state and federal funding, he doesn't have “great confidence” in that number.The department is also concerned about being swept up in a federal ideological debate about funding for Planned Parenthood. While the law prohibits federal funding for abortions, some in Congress want to kill all funding for Planned Parenthood's other women's health care services. It's the same pot of money that funds health department women's care, such as pap tests and mammograms.If that happened on top of the state cuts, women's health care at the health department would cease to exist, Rosebrock and Dershem said.“It's as comprehensive as we can get: breast exams, pap smears, blood pressure. We don't refuse care and everyone is billed by their ability to pay,” Derhsem said. “For most of these women, it's the one snapshot of health care for an entire year.”You can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.