Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health approves $1.6M budget cut

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Board of Health voted Wednesday on a budget amendment that will implement a $1.6 million budget reduction to the Department’s 2013 budget.

According to Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department officials, the cut is the result of changes to the Title XIX Medicaid Administrative Match federal funding formula, which reimburses the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department for services it provides to low-income people who receive Medicaid. However, because of the retroactive changes, the department has not been reimbursed since July of last year.

“Public health funding is under fire,” said Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Director Dr. Anthony L-T Chen. “The changes to the Title XIX Medicaid Administrative Match reimbursement formula that unfairly target Washington is just another example.” The Department is also preparing for up to $600,000 in cuts from sequestration, additional Title XIX changes and unknowns in the state budget. “We remain hopeful that the state will preserve the current level of public health funding, but the budget process is not over,” added Chen.

At the Board’s request, the Department proposed alternative options that spread the budget impact to other programs and use $500,000 of the agency’s $1.5 million reserves. The Board tabled voting on a budget amendment at the April 3 and April 10 meetings.

The Board adopted a proposal that preserves the mobile vaccine, tuberculosis infection control and Black Infant Health programs and retained 10 of 11 Family Support Centers while reducing services in code enforcement services, Smoking in Public Places enforcement and tobacco use prevention efforts. In addition, the budget cut eliminates youth tobacco retail compliance checks and work site wellness at 40 work sites. It also reduces services to underinsured and uninsured people for Sexually Transmitted Disease and HIV testing, curtails outreach to at-risk pregnant women to connect them to services, and reduces capacity for services delivered through the Family Support Centers.

The reduction will cause the Department to reduce its Full Time Equivalent (FTE) rolls by up to 12, which includes some vacant positions.

The Department’s original proposal presented at a March 20 study session would have resulted in the closure of a number of Family Support Centers throughout the county, reducing Maternal Child Outreach efforts and cutting 18 FTEs.

More information is available online at tpchd.org.

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Director Dr. Anthony L-T Chen. (COURTESY PHOTO)