The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has presented a budget reduction plan to the State Board of Health for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2016 and to prepare for reductions in Fiscal Year 2017. OSDH has received a 25% reduction in state appropriations since 2009, from $75 million dollars to $56 million dollars, which includes the latest round of budget cuts announced last week.
“The Oklahoma State Board of Health is responsible for protecting and promoting the health of all Oklahomans, while at the same time meeting all statutory responsibilities,” said board president Dr. Ronald Woodson. “We have faith that OSDH administration and employees will continue to deliver the highest level of public service possible under what will be trying circumstances. However, there will be real consequences to these reductions in preventive services including increased disease, avoidable treatment costs and tragically an increased risk of death.”
A total of $4.2 million dollars must be cut from the OSDH budget by the end of June 2016. OSDH will eliminate funding to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) to start new clinic sites and pay for care for Oklahomans who are uninsured. In addition, the OSDH has eliminated funding to establish a Cord Blood Bank, eliminated dental health education as a service and reduced funding for colorectal cancer screening for the uninsured by half.
In preparation for continued budget cuts in State Fiscal Year 2017, the agency is recommending the closure of five to seven county health department sites. For those who are able to travel the distance, regional services will be provided to residents of those areas. OSDH will also notify contractors of Oklahoma Child Abuse Prevention (OCAP) services that funding will be discontinued starting State Fiscal Year 2017.
OSDH has also offered an incentive to retirement eligible employees to retire in this year which will result in the elimination of approximately 90 positions, creating savings in the next fiscal year.
“We are in the unfortunate situation of having to eliminate programs, reduce services, regionalize statewide services and close county health department sites to meet the requirements of the revenue reduction,” said OSDH Commissioner and Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Terry Cline. “These are steps that are painful, but necessary in the current financial climate. Because of these cuts, we fully expect to see an erosion of the gains we have made in public health during the current decade.”