Feb 282013
 

reflector

 

“I think it’s important for people to realize that federal dollars do reach the local level and do have an impact on services like public health.”

Dr. John Morrow

director, Pitt County Health Department

By Ginger Livingston

 

Local organizations are waiting to see how sequestration will affect their funding.

Agencies are getting little information about how and when an automatic cut of $1.2 trillion in defense and nondiscretionary spending the next 10 years could be implemented.

George Perry, director of the Pitt County Department of Social Services, said he has received no information about the sequestration, which is scheduled to begin on Friday. A significant portion of social service programming, including income maintenance, food assistance, child care assistance and Medicaid for family and children, fall under discretionary spending, Perry said.

Pitt County’s Health Department will see cuts in its child vaccination, Women, Infants and Children, HIV testing and emergency preparedness programs, director Dr. John Morrow said.

“I think unfortunately (sequestration has) become a political debate, but on the local level we are talking about people’s health and people’s livelihood,” Morrow said. “This is where the impact will be, on the local level.”

Combined state and federal funding makes up about 25 percent of the Pitt County Health Department’s budget, Morrow said.

“We have very little flexibility on how those dollars can be spent,” he said.

 

“We are being told if there is a sequester, there will be cuts in these programs (vaccinations, WIC and HIV testing) and others such as emergency preparedness,” Morrow said.

Last year, the department gave about 2,500 childhood vaccines and did more than 5,500 HIV tests.

“I think it’s important for people to realize that federal dollars do reach the local level and do have an impact on services like public health,” Morrow said.

Grants utilized by the sheriff’s office will continue to receive funding but future programs may be jeopardized.

The sheriff’s office receives multiple forms of federal money. Some is given to the state, which distributes it to local law enforcement. There also are two types of grants.

Block grants are repeated awards based on a community’s crime statistics, and there are short-term grants that address specific issues, said Melissia Larson, grants administrator.

The county’s prescription medicine drop-off program was started with a short-term grant designed to combat prescription drug abuse. The block grants support the purchase of bulletproof vests and housing illegal immigrants in the local detention center, she said.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice recently sent out a letter alerting grant recipients that existing grants will continue to be funded, but new programs face reductions, Larson said.

As long as existing grants are funded, Larson said she is comfortable. However, the sheriff’s office will have to examine its budget if new grant money is not available.

Pitt County Schools is preparing for a $1 million loss in federal funds, said Michael Cowin, assistant superintendent for finance.

Of the $220.3 million school budget, $17 million of that is earmarked for Title 1 and Exceptional Children programs. Because the government allows a school district to spend the money in a span of more than one year, Cowin said the effects will not be felt.

“We will try to carry over dollars (from this cycle) to minimize the impact,” he said in December. “Sequestration to me is preventing us from moving the programs forward as they are now.”

Vidant Health will experience an $8.3 million decrease in federal reimbursements for medical care with $5.9 million of the reduction at Vidant Medical Center, Dr. David Herman, president and CEO, said.

“Sequestration is just a small part of many things that are happening on a federal level,” Herman said.

East Carolina University also is expecting cuts.

The Brody School of Medicine would feel an immediate effect because of a two percent cut in Medicare rates to providers. ECU Physicians, the school’s clinical branch, estimates the cut will reduce revenues by $450,000 to $600,000 annually, said Mary Schulken, public affairs director.

Cuts to existing research grants are not expected, but future grants could be reduced or eliminated. ECU receives about $8.5 million in grants from the National Institute of Health.

The university also receives more than $1.2 million from the Department of Defense. Officials expect Operation Re-entry, a program assisting returning veterans with health care and support, to lose funding, Schulken said.

 

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.

via The Daily Reflector.

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