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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Jail Medical Program funding may cause cuts in county health programs

In the face of prospective funding diversion for the state-mandated Jail Medical Program, the Yolo County Health Department might have to cut several department programs.

Previously, county general funds have covered the Jail Medical Program’s $3.5 million annual cost. However, the health department might have to use $1.2 million in health realignment funds, which are supposed to cover general public health and indigent health programs, to fund the Jail Medical Program.

The Yolo County Health Department might have to pick up the $1.2 million cost to fund the Jail Medical Program, whereas in the past it has not had to pay anything, said Yolo County public health officer Dr. Joseph Iser.

Several programs are at risk of closing in the health department due to funding diversion, including the public health laboratory, public health nursing, health administration and outreach and public health education.

The Jail Medical Program is composed of three parts, two of which are not mandated by the state – pre-booking medical, mental health and substance abuse intervention programs. The third component, the actual medical care the incarcerated receive at the jail and juvenile justice systems, is state-mandated. There are non-mandated programs that may be cut due to decreased funding for mandated ones.

“This year, mandates exceed the amount of revenue that’s available because of the recession,” said Pat Leary, assistant county administrator.

The two programs impacting the Yolo County Health Department’s budget the most are the Yolo County Health Care for Indigents Program and the Jail Medical Program. Iser said indigent health becomes increasingly expensive each year. The program’s initial budget proposal for next year is approximately $4 million.

“Indigent healthcare is a basic safety net for very low-income people who are not served anywhere else,” Leary said.

This year, the health department could be working with a budget that is approximately half of its 2007-2008 budget. Also, almost 50 percent of the department’s employees were laid off in the past year.

The health department’s current budget is $19.2 million. Next year, the health budget will be $16 million in expenditures and $14.5 million in revenue.

There is a $1.5 million gap between available revenues and projected expenditures in the budget for the health department next year. This is largely the result of less funding over the last several years accompanied by the increased cost of everything, including power, utilities and personnel, Iser said.

Iser voluntarily took a 20 percent pay cut this March as an effort to reduce employee layoffs and prevent program cuts this year.

The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program is at risk of closing as a result of decreased funding.

“I think the board of supervisors will not eliminate WIC and some other programs. The WIC program generates $1 million in state and federal funds with only about $300,000 in local funds,” Iser said. “It is cost-effective to keep. We are going to work with WIC at the state level to decrease the amount of local funds we need to fund our portion.”

Also, funding for the Maternal Child Adolescent Health program and the Adolescent Family Life program is at risk. Therefore, home visits are becoming less frequent for both of the programs.

The Public Health Laboratory, also at risk of closing, serves many functions. Employees test human stool samples for gastrointestinal illnesses. They also test domesticated and farm animals brains’ for rabies. Such animals include dogs, bats and some cows from UC Davis.

Some prospective alternatives to closing the lab include using some of UC Davis’ facilities and partnering or contracting with other agencies and counties to provide services, Leary said.

The Public Health Laboratory is exceptionally good, Leary said.

The Yolo County Board of Supervisors will vote on the recommended budget in June.

THERESA MONGELLUZZO can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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