Contra Costa Supervisors Expected To Approve 2004-2005 Budget With Funding Cuts to Health Services
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve on Tuesday a $330 million budget proposal for fiscal year 2004-2005 that includes "deep cuts in spending for health and social services," the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Vega, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/29). Under the budget proposal, the county Health Services Department is facing funding cuts totaling $18.8 million that will affect the county hospital, homeless shelters, mental health and substance abuse clinics and the George Miller Centers for people with developmental disabilities. The health services department faces the elimination of 202 positions, 42 of which are vacant. The budget proposal, which aims to address a $53 million budget deficit, also would reduce funding for more than 80 other services. Proposals include 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 and eliminating 16 recovery beds; reducing testing for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS; and reducing funding for communicable disease and tuberculosis treatment programs (California Healthline, 6/15).
The budget also calls for the closure of two operating rooms at the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center -- a move expected to save about $2.7 million per year. If approved, the closure would force patients seeking elective surgeries to wait two to four months for the operations, rather than the current wait time of three to six weeks. In addition, the budget would reduce the number of clean syringes provided to intravenous drug users by a local needle exchange program. Supervisors say that more funding cuts likely will follow when the board meets later this summer to address a loss of $9.3 million in state funds expected after the approval of the state budget (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/29).
In approving the budget, supervisors are hoping that Contra Costa County not-for-profit agencies will be able to "soften the blow" of the funding cuts to health services. County officials said they are talking to not-for-profit agencies about taking over operations or serving clients from centers for the developmentally disabled and other facilities (Chang, Contra Costa Times, 6/29). Supervisors have begun looking for a new operator for the George Miller Centers in Richmond and Concord. 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 Miller centers, which provide the services, receive about 66% of their funding through the state's regional centers program 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, 6/15). "It's sharing the obligation. If the county budget is drying up, somewhere the buck stops, and that's what's happening here," Health Department Director William Walker said.
Jim Burton, executive director of the Regional Center of the East Bay, which distributes state money to the Miller centers, said that the board did not give officials adequate advance notice about their decision, adding that it likely would not be possible to transfer operations from the county to another agency by December "without a disruption of service." Burton said he hopes that the county will push back target dates for the closure of the centers. Meanwhile, Rita Schank, director of the Ujima Family Recovery Centers in Pittsburg and Richmond, said her agency will be able to provide services to mothers and children affected by the closures of Contra Costa County's Born Free clinics. The clinics serve more than 200 mothers annually who have substance abuse issues(Contra Costa Times, 6/29).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.