Local Health Departments Struggling with Budgets

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By Amy Fox
By Benjy Jeffords

JACKSON COUNTY --  Money is tight for many agencies, thanks to less support at both the state and federal levels. County health departments are among the groups struggling to come up with enough funding for the upcoming fiscal year. 

Officials at the Jackson County Health Department say they've been forced to make changes since the recession in 2008 and, each year, it only gets more difficult. If they can't come up with funding, they may be forced to stop offering some services to the public.

Miriam Link-Mullison has her hands full developing the Jackson County Health Department's budget. With a new fiscal year fast approaching on December 1st, numbers don't look good.

"We are having some trouble getting to a balanced budget," said Link-Mullison.
   
Cut backs in federal grant money and state funding means the health department has $130,000 less to work with this year. So far, they've only been able to trim expenses by $113,000.

Link-Mullison said, "Even though we have made those changes, we still have more expense than we have revenue."

To compensate for increases in health insurance and retirement benefits, Link-Mullison said
the department made adjustments internally. Since 2008, they've reduced staff by 13 percent through attrition, eliminating 8 positions.

"We have reduced some services, but we have tried to focus on services that a lot of people don't access or that or offered elsewhere in the community or are not core prevention services," said Link-Mullison.

As the price of programs and operational costs continue to increase, Jackson County is looking to patients for help.

Link-Mullison said, "The more we have people coming to our health department for services like flu shots and immunizations, the more that helps us with our ability to provide all of our services."

Administrators say for now, they'll continue to move forward with the 2015 budget by focusing on increasing revenue rather than decreasing services.

The Health Department will present its preliminary 2015 budget to the board of health next week. The final budget will go to the county board sometime in November. The 2015 budget takes effect December 1.

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