- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - After not receiving $3.3 million for public health projects promised in the state budget, county health departments across Missouri are asking Gov. Jay Nixon to release the funds.

Cole County Health Department director Kristi Campbell told the Jefferson City News-Tribune (https://bit.ly/1oUotkG ) that local public health agencies had planned to receive $2.3 million plus an extra $1 million from the Legislature, but got nothing. The health department funding is part of a much larger $840 million being withheld from the state budget.

Without the money, several health department directors said they might have a hard time paying for food and lodging inspections or communicable disease control. They also noted that funding has decreased for local public health services. In 2001, health departments received $9.7 million.

“It seems like the local public health agencies keep getting more and more tasks, but less funding,” Campbell said. “People don’t realize everything that the local public health department does. We can have the best colleges in the nation, but if people are dying from vaccine-preventable diseases it doesn’t matter.”

The Missouri Public Health Association and the Missouri Association of Local Public Health Agencies have asked local health agencies to write letters to the governor. MOALPHA executive director Mahree Skala said two-thirds of the state’s 115 local public health agencies are participating in the letter-writing drive.

Skala said some local public health agencies worry they’ll have to cut staff to deal with the funding loss. If a county department is already short-staffed, the loss of personnel would affect all of its programs, Skala said.

“Communicable disease control and public food safety services are more important than ever right now,” Skala said. “I think the Ebola incident in Dallas reminds us of the importance of a good public health grounding to respond to emergencies like that . and it takes some resources to do that.”

The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services supports releasing the funds, but hasn’t sent a letter to Nixon, according to Andrea Waner.

Bruce Jenkins, administrator for the Miller County Health Department, said he sent an email to the governor telling him money that health departments receive goes toward enforcing laws like food inspections. He said the state may have to take up those county responsibilities if they’re not given funds.


Information from: Jefferson City News Tribune, https://www.newstribune.com

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