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Health

Health Department Budget Cuts Come at Cost to Public

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Photo credit: Marrie Yvonne Ochieng

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/health-department-budget-cuts-come-cost-public_40873.mp3

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department says that August is the time when they see the most residents come in to get immunization shots. But due to a lack of state funding, all non-Greene County residents will be charged for immunization within the Greene County limits. Also, the department will no longer be doing some projects within the community in light of these recent cuts.  KSMU’s Matthew Barnes reports.

The budgets of local public health agencies statewide are seeing cuts of 17% percent. For Greene County this means the Health Department will be losing about $50,000 to 60,000 dollars in its budget from the state this year. According to Kevin Gipson, director of the health department, this is one of many cuts the department has seen from the state.

“We’ve received tremendous cuts the past few years in our state revenues. We are at levels that we were in 2002. We’ve never seen state funding this low in the past decade. And with increased cost, increased population, we just can’t maintain that level of service anymore. So we are going to have to look at a couple of things, and  that’s to increase revenues and to get out of some service we were providing on behalf of the state,” said Gipson.

In an attempt to pump up revenue, people who live outside of Greene County will have to pay a $30 fee for immunizations shots. Children under the age of 18 will have to pay a $15. Gipson says people come to Greene County because it has a greater variety of shots and more consistent clinic hours than outside areas.

“We really don’t want to charge for services such as these that protect the public health, both in Greene County and out from disease, because disease knows no boundaries. But, we were forced to do so because of these reductions,” said Gipson.

The health department will also be cutting some of its services.

“We did routine inspections of lodging facilities. Check their ice machines to make sure they were cleaned properly. Just general repair and safety and health issues in the hotel,” said Gipson.

That responsibility will now be left up to the state, which will also be taking over inspections of truck accidents that involve food shipments. It was originally the health department's job to decide whether or not food that may have been damaged in a shipping accident was still good.

“The state will know be required to do that. It’s their legislation that requires it and they were paying us to do it and they no longer are. Now, will they be able to do them as well or as frequently as we did? I don’t know,” said Gipson.

The health department has cut back to its core public health services. It will continue restaurant inspections, disease investigations, immunizations and case management of high-risk pre-natal clients.

 The department receives $154,000 dollars from the state for the Springfield-Greene County area. Gipson says if more cuts continue, he will find it very hard to find ways to scale down the already lean department.

For KSMU News, I’m Matthew Barnes.