Funding reduced for public health efforts


    Fewer public dollars will be available this year in Kent County to provide care to children and seniors because of the state’s ongoing budget deficit and a smaller outlay from a key millage.

    The Kent County Health Department’s annual agreement with the state of Michigan — the Comprehensive Planning and Budgeting Contract — contains fewer dollars this year. But that outcome didn’t surprise the department’s Deputy Administrative Health Officer Bill Anstey, who said less revenue has been coming in each year for years.

    The CPBC means the county’s department has to provide a wide range of services that include immunizations, infectious and sexually transmitted disease control, hearing and vision screening, food protection, drinking water and on-site sewer discharge monitoring — and do so with fewer dollars.

    Funding was reduced through an executive order Gov. Jennifer Granholm issued last May and then again by cuts made to the state’s general budget in October. Those reductions have also curtailed the county’s funding for the infant mortality program, childhood lead poisoning prevention, and the maternal and child health program, just to name three.

    Total revenue from the contract was slightly more than $19 million, with roughly $7.7 million coming from the state. The county’s general fund was a source for $5.5 million of the total, while income from the fees and permits charged by the health department supplied the contract with about $5.8 million.

    Anstey said more than $13.7 million of the total will cover personnel costs for the labor-intensive work. The contract will be in effect until Sept. 30, the last day of the department’s current fiscal year.

    Cathy Raevsky, the department’s administrative health officer, told HQ that she expects more cuts will be made to the contract for the next fiscal year. She also said she expects the department will still be dealing with the Novel H1N1 virus well into this year. To help with the continuing flu dilemma, the health department received a separate state grant of $1.17 million for vaccines. Those additional funds are being used to cover the cost of staff time for after-hours clinics, temporary personnel, media coverage to promote the need for inoculation, and supplies and equipment at the clinics offering the vaccinations.

    When county commissioners allocated revenue collected from the county’s Senior Millage, they thought they’d be turning over more dollars to the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan than they did in November. After all, they were able to allocate $7.1 million for 2009 and hoped to hand out a similar amount for this year. But their 2010 allocation to AAAWM, which administers the funds, was $6.6 million.

    “This was a tough year. We had to whack about $500,000,” said Commissioner Art Tanis.

    AAAWM Assistant Director Jackie O’Connor said the overall budget had to be cut by 7 percent and the reductions for specific providers ranged from 2 percent to 100 percent.

    “We have a service waiting list,” said O’Connor, who has been with AAAWM for a dozen years.

    Funding requests made through AAAWM to the county totaled $7.1 million, the same amount allocated last year. The requests were made across four categories that provide an array of services to county seniors, including transportation, meals, financial assistance, dental, hearing and vision care, emotional counseling, home repairs, health education and other areas. The overall goal of all the services is to help seniors stay in their homes.

    “It’s really wonderful to learn of the broad amount of services that we have,” said Commissioner Carol Hennessy.

    County voters approved the millage in 1998 and then renewed it in 2006.  HQ

    Funding from Senior Millage reduced

    Cuts to agencies providing services this year to senior citizens in Kent County totaled 7 percent when compared to last year’s allocation. Reductions were made to four of the five service categories. Only the smallest — the miscellaneous category — received an increase.

    Here is a summary of the type of services offered to seniors in the four categories that recieved fewer dollars:

    • Priority: Adult day care, home-delivered meals transportation, flu and pneumonia vaccinations, and prescription assistance.
    • Supportive: Meals, home repair, medication management, personal emergency response systems, in-home recreation therapy and house weatherization.
    • Access: Care management, home support, long-term care ombudsman, outreach and assistance.
    • General: Home chores, financial services, legal assistance, senior companionship, vision and telephone reassurance.

    Below is a comparison of the funding totals for 2009 and 2010, and the percentage change, for revenue collected from the county’s Senior Millage.





    Source: Kent County, November 2009

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