The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) Public Health Administration briefed the House Appropriation’s Health and Human Resources Subcommittee Wednesday on their FY 2018 Budget Overview.
The Administration representatives highlighted many accomplishments over the past year in each of their sub-departments ranging from the Office of Controlled Dangerous Substances, to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and the Office of Preparedness and Response. Of note from a county perspective, the Department announced an increase in the number of local health departments that have received national accreditation.
Subcommittee members questioned Secretary Schrader and Deputy Secretary Haft on the Administration’s approach to addressing the heroin epidemic that continues to ravage the state. Subcommittee Chair Delegate Kirill Reznik wanted to see a more comprehensive approach. The Secretaries shared that the Department is working on a sequential intercept model for broadly addressing the epidemic across state departments. In response to a question from Delegate Carozza in regards to the role of the local health departments, they noted the Department is launching a command center to help coordinate activity on the local level.
Additionally, both the Public Health Administration representatives and representatives from the Maryland Association of County Health Officers (MACHO) testified to express opposition to the DLS’ DHMH Administration Analysis recommending a $1.6 million reduction to local health department contractual health insurance funding. Currently the DHMH administration pays this invoice on behalf of the local health departments. The recommendation amounts to a budget hit to the local health departments as they would have to absorb the costs. The impacts of this recommendation are compounded by the fact that Core funding for the local health departments, which funds up to 50% of public health activities in the state, will remain level funded in FY 18 instead of increasing according by formula. This amounts to a $747,267 reduction to their budgets.
The subcommittee was also briefed by the Office of Health Care Quality (OHCQ). The bulk of the briefing focused on OHCQ’s staffing level. The DLS analysis noted that the office has struggled with chronic staffing shortages and has failed to meet statutorily required staffing levels. Members of the committee remain concerned that the low staffing levels impact the safety of the office’s health care facilities and pressed the panel to explain what they are doing to remedy the situation.
The Public Health Administration and the OHCQ also briefed the Senate Budget and Tax Health and Human Resource’s Subcommittee Thursday afternoon.
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