Ventura County Supervisors Consider Budget, Warn Health Services Could Face Reductions
Ventura County supervisors meeting today to work out the details of the county's fiscal year 2002-2003 budget have warned that health programs may face further cuts if state reductions are "as severe as expected," the Los Angeles Times reports. County Executive Officer Johnny Johnston has submitted a $1.2 billion FY 2002-2003 budget that calls for $17.6 million in reductions. That figure does not include a projected $26 million state revenue loss that could push the deficit to about $44 million. If the state losses are realized, Johnston may recommend dipping into the county's $10.3 million share of the tobacco settlement despite objections from the citizen panel that makes recommendations on tobacco settlement spending. Johnston has asked supervisors to wait until the final state figures are determined before considering such a move. Several supervisors have indicated they would support using the funds to maintain some health services. "First and foremost we have to maintain our health care safety net," Supervisor Judy Mikels said, adding that if using a portion of the tobacco funds is necessary, "for this year only, that's what we should do." David Maron, chair of the Tobacco Settlement Advisory Committee, said it would "be naive" of the panel not to realize that county officials are considering using the funds to make up part of the projected deficit (Saillant, Los Angeles Times, 6/17).
County supervisors are also considering using tobacco settlement money to restore $3 million in mental health funding cut by the County Executive Office, the Ventura County Star reports. Johnston excluded the funding from his $1.2 billion budget, resulting in the potential loss of 34 jobs affecting in-patient psychiatric care, emergency shelter and housing services for the elderly if funding is not restored. Linda Shulman, acting director of behavioral health, said the funding cuts would ultimately cost the county more money as patients could lose treatment and medication options and end up in jails or emergency rooms. The Star reports that all five of the supervisors "appear willing" to use a portion of the county's tobacco funds to restore the mental health funding but notes that taking the money from the fund will mean a reduction in prevention programs aimed at youth and emergency care (Levin, Ventura County Star, 6/17).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.