Deep cuts expected for health department statewide

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by ZAHID ARAB / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on March 13, 2013 at 9:46 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 13 at 10:55 PM

TACOMA, Wash. -- A federal funding shortfall is expected to lead to the closure of seven family support centers in the Tacoma-Pierce Health Department as well as changes in many other vital services.

Officials with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department told KING 5 that they expect more than 38,000 people will be affected. Aside from family counseling, the health department assists those needing help with employment, food stamps, medical care and clothing. 
 
Health Departments statewide are in similar situations. Collectively, they must cut $8.5 million from their budgets.

This is all because more than $1.6 million in funding is gone because of Title XIX Medicaid Administrative Match Fund formula changes.

The federal funding reimburses the Tacoma-Pierce Health Department and other health departments for services it provides to low-income people who receive Medicaid. Instead of 75 percent the health department received, the government will now only match 50 percent.

Despite ongoing negotiations between the state and the federal government, the budget will be cut in half retroactive to July 2012.

“Staff is really stressed and mainly because they’re worried about the families they serve,” said Linda Miner, a program coordinator.

Shablee Sipes, a mother of two, receives counseling at the Eastside Family Support Center. At 22, she says it’s vital to helping her become a better mom. Now, the center could close.
 
“There’s going to be a lot of issues, a lot more children falling through the cracks, there will be a lot more CPS cases,” said Sheila McCann, a Family Support Worker.
 
Maternal child health and community programs positions may be impacted, which would include reducing the number of hours of positions or eliminating them completely.
 
“We’re hoping for the best,” said McCann.
 
While final program and staff changes would not happen until May 1st, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is in the process of working through many details regarding the extent of the specific impacts.
 
Workers fear the worst case scenario may soon become reality.
 
“There will be all those families that won’t get services,” said Miner.
 
The Board of Health will review a budget amendment at its March 20th study session. It will hear public testimony and vote on accepting the reduction at its April 3rd meeting.

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