Funding Declines in Face of Public Health Outbreaks

As reported in the Washington Post, state and local health departments responding to last week’s meningitis outbreak are doing so with dramatically reduced budgets, and under threat of increasing cuts next year.

Local health departments are key in a public health emergency response, which can be time-consuming and costly.

“In a public health emergency, the state health department is usually a lot of the boots on the ground,” said Jim Blumenstock, chief program officer for public health practice for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “State and local health departments are reaching out and literally touching, by voice contact or sending visiting nurses, thousands.”

States have cut local public health funding since the recession in 2009, and under sequestration, federal public health funding may be cut further.  As reported,

[T]he Association of State and Territorial Health Officials estimate that state public health budgets could see their federal funding cut between 8 percent and 11 percent. . . Federal funds can make up more than half of a state public health department’s budget.

In Maryland, local health departments have seen their State (Core Funding) budget reduced from a high of almost $70 million in fiscal year 2008 to the base funding level of $37.3 million for the past several fiscal years.  As part of the offsets provided to the teacher pension shift, inflationary increases should be restored in fiscal 2014 providing an additional $2.2 million, increasing each year thereafter.

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