Ventura County Advisory Panel Approves Tobacco Settlement Spending Plan
A Ventura County Board of Supervisors advisory panel yesterday unanimously approved a plan for spending part of the county's share of the tobacco settlement next year, the Ventura County Star reports. Under the plan, the county Health Care Agency would receive $4 million to spend on public health, including $2.5 million for the Ventura County Medical Center to pay for treating uninsured patients. The plan would give $900,000 to private hospitals and physicians to treat poor and uninsured patients and $750,000 to a pending project for housing mentally ill adults. Panel members disagreed over funding for tobacco education and prevention, the Star reports. A task force composed of members from the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the county's Public Health Department recommended that at least 25% of this year's settlement go toward smoking prevention, cessation and education, but panel members "balked" at giving $2 million to prevention, citing the need to examine other health issues, such as chronic disease prevention and emergency health care issues. The panel eventually agreed to allocate $1.2 million for smoking prevention and education programs. The plan now goes to a finance committee and could be presented to the Board of Supervisors for final approval by next month (Koehler, Ventura County Star, 8/16).
Stanislaus County's decision to use $4 million of its $5.8 million tobacco settlement funds this year on street construction has prompted American Medical Association President Dr. Richard Corlin to nominate the county for the "Golden Butt Award," which is given to the region with the "most egregious use of tobacco settlement money." In the Aug. 20 American Medical News, Corlin writes that money from the national tobacco settlement is intended to go toward anti-tobacco campaigns and treatment of smoking-related diseases. He writes that states and counties "have been given an opportunity to get those costs paid by another source, so they don't have to bear them. They took $4 million of their tobacco settlement money and used it for street repairs in Stanislaw [sic] County." But County Counsel Mick Krausnick said, "We got that money, and we can use it as we like." Reagan Wilson, the county's chief executive officer, added, "The settlement is intended to give counties the ability to go back and do things they weren't able to do because they were spending money on health care." Los Angeles County, which used part of its settlement money on street and park maintenance and another portion on "costs stemming from a police scandal," also has been nominated for the Golden Butt Award (Holland, Modesto Bee, 8/16).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.