Five Counties Act on Health Care Issues
Contra Costa County supervisors on Tuesday approved a $1.25 billion budget for fiscal year 2006-2007 that includes $20 million in cuts, primarily to health and social service programs, the Contra Costa Times reports. The county faces a $43 million deficit.
The cuts include reducing mental health services at a juvenile center for boys and closing three public health center pharmacies. More than 200 jobs also will be eliminated, most of which currently are vacant.
Critics say the cuts will eliminate mental health services for 245 children in the county (Rosen Lum, Contra Costa Times, 5/3).
Fresno County supervisors will use $1.5 million intended for road maintenance and funds from other programs to help address projected deficits in mental health programs, the Fresno Bee reports.
The county Behavioral Health Department needs at least $3 million to maintain services in FY 2006-2007 and will need an additional $3 million to avoid program cuts in the future. Supervisors have approved a three-year cost savings plan that includes eliminating staff positions, reducing hours at rural clinics and eliminating peer support programs.
The Children and Families Department also needs an estimated $2 million to maintain mental health services for children. The department will have to reduce spending by $500,000 in FY 2006-2007.
Supervisors said they would consider consolidating mental health services from both departments to save money by reducing administrative costs (Ginis, Fresno Bee, 5/3).
A new Santa Clara County budget proposal that includes projected county hospital deficits estimates a general fund deficit of $161.4 million by 2008, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Previous estimates that did not include hospital costs place the debt at $25 million during the same time frame.
According to the Mercury News, the projected deficit matches the estimated revenue that would be generated by Measure A, a proposed half-cent sales tax increase on the June ballot. The initiative would need to be approved by a simple majority of voters.
County Executive Pete Kutras, who released the $3.85 billion budget proposal for FY 2006-2007, said there could be "perilous service reductions for all who receive county services" in the future.
According to the Mercury News, the current budget proposal contains almost no service reductions.
Kutras said the county's general fund has grown by about 3.6% annually, while spending -- including subsidies to the hospital -- has increased by 4.4% annually (Witt, San Jose Mercury News, 5/3).
Sonora County supervisors on Tuesday voted to begin eliminating medical services at Tuolumne General Hospital, the Modesto Bee reports. The hospital is expected to lose $9.1 million this year and $8.3 million next year unless changes are made.
County officials will meet June 6 to discuss a plan and timetable for phasing out medical services. The hospital will continue to operate its long-term care, psychiatric and daytime adult health care units, and the county will continue operating health clinics for the uninsured and Medi-Cal beneficiaries.
County staff will consider two proposals that could maintain services at the hospital. Under one proposal, a ballot measure would be introduced to use bonds and taxes to raise funds to build a new hospital that complies with state seismic safety standards. Officials also will continue talks with the state prison system about contracts to care for inmates at the Sierra Conservation Center to fund a new hospital (Carlson, Modesto Bee, 5/3).
Proposed cuts to the Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Service Department would close mental health clinics in Ceres, Oakdale and Patterson beginning July 1, the Modesto Bee reports. The department could face a $4 million budget deficit if services are not reduced in the next fiscal year, according to department Director Denise Hunt.
The department will seek to shift 20 to 25 staff positions to new programs being funded by Proposition 63, which voters in 2004 approved to raise taxes on high-income residents to fund mental health care.
Critics of the plan said many residents who receive outpatient services at the clinics could end up being hospitalized or incarcerated.
Supervisors will hold a hearing on the proposed cuts May 16 (Carlson, Modesto Bee, 4/30).