Contra Costa County Supervisors Hold Hearing on Proposed Budget Cuts to Health Care Services
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Monday held a hearing on proposed county Health Services Department budget cuts totaling $18.8 million, drawing 100 speakers and a "standing-room-only crowd of clients, parents and advocates" who urged the board to maintain services at the county hospital, homeless shelters, mental health and substance abuse clinics and the George Miller centers, the Contra Costa Times reports. Department Director Dr. William Walker's fiscal year 2004-2005 budget proposal calls for the elimination of 202 positions, only 42 of which are vacant, according to Pat Godley, chief financial officer of the department. The budget proposal, which aims to address a $53 million budget deficit, also would reduce funding for more than 80 services, including:
- Eliminating from the county mental health system positions for 20 clinicians who work with children and five who work with adults, five positions at the county psychiatric emergency services office, 15 staff members at the county hospital's psychiatric ward and 10 vacant clinical positions;
- Eliminating 21 beds at alcohol and other drug detoxification centers -- a 49% reduction in services -- and eliminating 16 recovery beds -- about a 20% decrease in services;
- Reducing testing for sexually transmitted disease, including HIV/AIDS; and
- Reducing funding for communicable disease and tuberculosis treatment programs.
Supervisors also have begun looking for a new operator for the George Miller Centers in Richmond and Concord as part of their plan to reduce the health services budget (Felsenfeld, Contra Costa Times, 6/15). Last month, the board gave 60 days' notice to the Department of Developmental Services regional centers program that the county would not renew its contract to provide services to people with developmental disabilities and their families. The George Miller Centers, which provide the services, receive about 66% of their funding through the state's regional center and the remainder from the county. County supervisors intend for another party to pay the county's share and continue to operate the programs in existing buildings (California Healthline, 5/27).
The crowd at the hearing protested the proposed budget cuts, which they said would negatively impact several areas of public health. "Mental health has been cut to the bone already. What are you going to do, cut the bone next?" Stephen Cohen, who works with people with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems, said. Suzi Prindle, chair of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Advisory Board, said the county should not eliminate detoxification beds was unwise because without them, "people do not get treatment, and the strain on other county services rises. But most importantly, people die." The board is expected to approve the budget June 29. County administrators will then examine the impact of the state budget on county services before additional hearings and fiscal adjustments to the county budget are held this summer (Contra Costa Times, 6/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.