Health Department could see cuts to funding

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 21, 2019

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The Alabama Department of Public Health will be millions of dollars in the hole, which means some County Health Departments across the state could see cuts, according to the State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

Harris said the department will need to make up $8 to $9 million. He said it is his goal to “reduce a little bit everywhere and maintain a presence everywhere.”

Alabama county health departments provide services including family planning, cancer screenings and immunizations.

Harris said the department is losing money for a few reasons. One of which being there are many “indigent” patients who come and do not have insurance. Another reason is fewer people are going to county health departments in the first place. Harris also said fewer counties are giving as much money as previously.

The department said earlier this month there was a $21 million loss of revenue when Alabama Medicaid Agency made changes. This resulted in about 100 social workers being notified of layoffs who work at county health departments.

“Besides social workers, we have not made any decisions about any other layoffs in any other parts to our county health departments, but we’re certainly looking at that,” he said.

ADPH is re-evaluating what services are most important in each county and what cuts are feasible.

“Every county is a little different and we’ll probably have 67 different plans,” he said.

Harris said he wants to make sure counties with no other health care options have enough services.

“Our blackbelt communities, for example, have populations that are incredibly disadvantaged and we may be the only provider for that county. And I don’t see any way we could not provide services in that county. No matter what. Again the mathematics for that are real challenging,” he said.

Harris said they are still continuing discussions and will have more details on a finalized plan in the next few weeks.