VENTURA COUNTY: Health Agency Faces $3.6M Budget Shortfall
The Ventura County Health Agency may have to cut $3.6 million from its budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, the Ventura County Star reports. The county, which only has $12 million in account reserves, also must pay $15.3 million to the federal government for "a decade of Medicare misbillings." The effect of the agency's budget cuts would be "devastating" to the area's mental health housing, according to Lou Matthews, a board member of the Ventura County chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. "We are already in a (mental health) housing crisis. I would say if the cuts have to be made ... (ensure) it doesn't hurt the mentally ill, who are already severely uncared for," he said. Interim Chief Administrative Officer Harry Hufford said that all cuts "are still preliminary" and may be lessened with supplemental federal and state funding, which fund the bulk of the county health budget (O'Donnell, 5/23).
The county's financial woes have prompted a "skirmish" between Hufford, who prepared the budget, and Health Care Agency Director Pierre Durand, who "has yet to submit a list of proposed cuts." As an alternative, Durand has suggested that Hufford reduce administrative fees charged to the Health Care Agency for county services, including audits and payroll. Calling Durand's proposal a "diversion," Hufford said, "I've asked Dr. Durand to give me the impact of direct service reductions to his budget. One of his counters is to be critical of overhead charges (from) the (chief administrative officer's) department. What we really need from him is an impact statement on delivery of services" Hufford's final proposal will be reviewed by the Board of Supervisors on June 13, and most agency heads have already submitted their proposed budget cut targets (Piccalo, Los Angeles Times, 5/23).