Health agencies fear funding cuts

May. 12, 2013 @ 06:44 PM

Two county agencies that serve the needy could lose staff and support for their community partners if commissioners follow a list of possible cuts.
Staring at a possible $14 million gap in next year’s budget, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners has been looking to cut wherever possible. Michael Halford, county budget director, recently offered commissioners a “pass” budget projection based on department requests and direction from commissioners.
Overall, the Department of Public Health requested $15.5 million in county funds. The budget office total was $13.7 million. The county provides about 47 percent of agency funding.
“We have not asked for new county positions for several years,” Health Director Merle Green told commissioners recently.
The agency offered $657,345 in cuts. Included are cuts for Family Services of the Piedmont that helps battered woman at $61,000 and $60,000 for Triad Health Project, which works with people living with HIV/AIDS.
The health agency has seen an increase in HIV in collage age young people, the minority population and homosexual groups, Green said.
“We can’t afford to cut the community groups,” Green said. “The health department can’t provide these services.”
Democratic Commissioner Carolyn Coleman agreed.
“Someone has to provide these services,” she said.
“Family Services is a bargain for us,” said Democratic Commissioner Kay Cashion. The agency also listed eight vacant positions as potential cuts. Those include a nurse in family planning and two pharmacy specialists jobs that had been supported by grants. Pregnant women may have to wait longer to see a doctor if the agency loses the position, Green said.
“The health of children is a big issue,” Cashion said.
“These women have no other place to go, and this service is critical for them,” said Democratic Commissioner Raymond Trapp.
The Department of Social Services requested $20.3 million with $1.3 million in possible cuts. Although the total was in line with the budget office assessment, it is nearly a $2 million increase. Possible cuts include as many as 36 jobs, ranging from child welfare services and foster care to caseworkers.
With growing case loads for food stamps and Medicaid and a shrinking staff, DSS Director Robert Williams earlier told commissioners that his agency risks paying penalties with county funds for not providing food stamps and Medicaid services on time.
Requests for food stamps have doubled in the past five years while the staff to handle cases has been cut, Williams said earlier.
“Food stamp requests are driven by the economy,” Williams said. “Our case load is now bigger than Wake County’s.”
The growing number of needy elderly will impact the agency for years, Williams said.
“We need enough staff to see these people,” he said. | 888-3626

2014 budget

Presentation: The county manager’s budget will be presented to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners on May 16. Commissioners have until July 1 to adopt a final budget.