Ventura County Supervisors To Consider Additional Reductions in Funds for Health Care Programs
Ventura County supervisors today will consider additional reductions in funds for health care programs to help reduce the county's budget by $8 million, the Los Angeles Times reports. Supervisors in June approved budget reductions that affected a number of health care programs to cover an estimated $17 million deficit in the county's fiscal year 2002-2003 budget, and county officials said that the programs "could be slashed again" because of the state's continued financial problems and limited local revenue. The county Health Care Agency faces an estimated $10 million budget deficit, but supervisors last month approved a plan to allocate part of this year's national tobacco settlement payment to help cover the shortfall (Saillant, Los Angeles Times, 11/12). Under the plan, the county will use $5.5 million in tobacco settlement funds to establish a "priority safety net" for hospital treatment, care at clinics and psychiatric services. The plan will provide $3 million for Ventura County Medical Center and $750,000 for the county Behavioral Health Department. In addition, the plan will allocate $900,000 to reimburse private hospitals for the cost of care for uninsured patients, $450,000 to reimburse private physicians for the cost of care for uninsured patients and $500,000 for tobacco prevention and education programs (California Healthline, 10/17).
However, county officials said that a continued lack of funds for mental health services and increased demand for counseling programs and foster care may force additional budget reductions. Larry Johnson, chair of the county Mental Health Advisory Board, said that supervisors should use funds from the county's $16.1 million tobacco settlement reserve fund, rather than make additional budget reductions. He added that a reduction in funds for programs for the mentally ill "may not be a wise financial decision," the Times reports. He said, "They are dependent on the services, because they are ill. ... The danger is it will be harder for them to get services, especially if the county closes clinics. Then they are left to their own devices, and it just gets worse" (Los Angeles Times, 11/12).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.