Illinois public health programming struggles without state money - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Illinois public health programming struggles without state money

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WSIL -- Public health departments in southern Illinois face tough choices on what programs they can continue funding, without money from the state.

Illinois owes the Jackson County and Franklin-Williamson Bi County Health Departments a combined total of about $1 million, which is money tied up in the budget impasse. 

That unpaid bill could make for a more dangerous mosquito season in Jackson County. Now is when the Jackson County Health Department usually provides training and supplies to local towns but can't right now.

"This is a critical time for us to get money for mosquito types of abatement programming, because this is when we set the whole summer up," said Jackson County Health Department Administrator Miriam Link-Mullison.

Summer brings the height of mosquito season.

Link-Mullison said she's short roughly $500,000 in state money right now.

For the first time her 18 year tenure, she's had to reach out to the county board for financial help.

"I feel fortunate that I have a supportive county board, but at some point, it's not their problem," Link-Mullison said.

The county has covered pension payments and promised to provide a loan to the health department if needed.
 
The state also owes about $500,000 to the Franklin-Williamson Bi County Health Department.

Administrator Robin Koehl has laid off a dozen employees since last year, and worries it may not end there.

"Faced with the uncertainty of funding, we can't take anything off the table," Koehl said.

Koehl said this uncertainty means her department can't fully prepare for a public health emergency.

"There's no doubt that people's lives are at risk when public health goes by the way side," Koehl said.

As the political focus shifts to 2017 funding, public health leaders worry last year's money will end up on the back burner.

A bill that would fund basic public health services throughout Illinois, such as food safety and disease control, hasn't gained much traction in the state legislature.

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