Orange County Supervisors Approve Budget With Reductions for Health Care Services
The Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a $4.8 billion fiscal year 2003-2004 overall county budget that will likely lead to reductions in mental health services, the closure of eight part-time health clinics and reductions in tests for sexually transmitted diseases if additional funds from the state are not approved, the Los Angeles Times reports (Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times, 6/25). Supervisors earlier this month approved the county Health Care Agency portion of the budget for fiscal year 2003-2004. The proposal will likely require the county to close smaller, county-administered health clinics that provide free immunizations; tests and treatment for tuberculosis, STDs and HIV; prenatal care; and preventive care for low-income children. The county Medical Services for Indigents program, which provides health care services for county residents ages 21 to 64 who do not qualify for Medi-Cal, could also face reductions. In addition, the proposed budget reductions would eliminate 33 of the 544 locked psychiatric beds in the county and a nurse shift for county jail mental health services. The proposal also would limit the response of health officials to disease outbreaks and the treatment of patients and could affect a county program that sends nurses to the homes of newborns with health problems to ensure that they receive adequate care (California Healthline, 6/11).
Some supervisors and health care advocates raised concerns about the budget reductions for health care programs. Supervisor Chuck Smith said, "I'm not sure we can stand these kinds of cuts for our needy population. I'm very disturbed by the tremendous cuts in social services and health care." America Bracho, CEO of Latino Health Access, added, "They were already affected by the lack of services. Now, it will be worse -- larger waiting times, more visits to the emergency room, probably more visits to alternative places like traditional healers. You push people against the wall, and people find their way or go without treatment" (Foley, Orange County Register, 6/25).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.