SACRAMENTO – Despite a pandemic that killed around 62,000 Californians – more than enough to fill Dodger Stadium – Governor Gavin Newsom has again refused to top up the budgets of the state’s underfunded and understaffed local health departments.
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Local health officials, who were responsible for steering the state’s Covid-19 response, had asked the Democratic governor for $ 200 million a year for public health basics beginning with the 2021-22 budget year ending Jan. July begins.
Despite a projected budget surplus of $ 76 billion, Newsom has not approved its motion in its budget proposal of $ 268 billion released on Friday. If Newsom doesn’t change his mind before the budget is finalized, it would be the third year in a row that it has turned down funding requests to help rebuild California’s devastated public health infrastructure and workforce, which is the ability of the state Threatened to Control Covid and Prepare for Future Threats Health Experts Say.
“We are extremely dismayed and disappointed,” said Michelle Gibbons, executive director of the County Health Executives Association of California. “We can’t wait to think about public health funding until the next pandemic or public health crisis. We have to do it now. “
Amazingly #MayRevise does not realize that lives were lost during the # COVID-19 Pandemic due to years of neglect of our #Healthcare Workforce & infrastructure. #CACantWait Reinvest to rebuild local public health while the health of our communities is at stake.
– CHEAC (@CHEAC) May 14, 2021
California’s 61 local health departments are responsible for the safety of their communities, but throughout the pandemic, city and county public health officials had to perform basic public health functions such as contact tracking, communicable disease testing, and regulation enforcement give up public health because they do not have enough manpower or resources.
Last year, in the midst of the crisis, Newsom said the state could not afford to top up local public health budgets. California stared at a planned deficit of $ 54 billion that forced the governor to back down on his biggest healthcare ambitions.
The unexpected surplus that the Newsom administration has forecast this year – largely due to rising tax revenues – makes the first-time Democrat dream big again. Newsom plans to expand the government’s Medicaid low-income program, called Medi-Cal, to income-earning unauthorized immigrants aged 60 and over, which costs $ 1 billion in the first year. He proposes spending $ 7 billion to convert hotel rooms into permanent shelter for the homeless. He calls for new mental health and substance abuse services for children and adolescents in schools. And he’s leading a major transformation of Medi-Cal to expand behavioral health care and social services such as food and housing assistance for the homeless, ex-incarcerated, and other medically vulnerable people.
The federal government provides the lion’s share of public health funding in California, and Newsom’s budget would use tens of billions of additional government funds to support state and local health officials. However, health officials say federal spending does not adequately meet ongoing needs for public health infrastructures such as compensation and data collection systems.
“You need strong public health and a strong health system, and to believe that you can invest in one to the exclusion of the other is just foolhardy,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Epidemiology Biostatistics at the University of California-San Francisco.
Public health leaders say a $ 200 million per year infusion could help fund long-term staff positions like nurses and epidemiologists, pay for new public health laboratories – the state has lost eleven since 1999 – and restore obsolete data systems build that crashed, a problem officials say cost lives during the pandemic.
When asked why he failed to provide the funds in his budget plan, Newsom referred to planned investments in other health programs, such as the Medi-Cal remodel, which is expected to be $ 1.5 billion a year and $ 300 million a year. Dollars for public hospitals.
“I hope people celebrate,” said Newsom, who is likely to face a Republican recall election this year. He added that his budget proposal was just a starting point for negotiations with state lawmakers, which will continue in the coming weeks. The legislature has until June 15 to submit a revised budget proposal for approval.
However, state-democratic lawmakers, who control both chambers of the legislature, consider Newsom’s proposed investments in Medi-Cal and public hospitals to be insufficient. For the first time, the Senate and Assembly Chairs and the Chairs of Health Committees in both houses are publicly calling on the governor to invest in local health departments as well.
“We know how difficult the past year has been for public health officials and our county public health staff,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins. “Your commitment is relentless and you have done everything possible to protect our health and safety during the pandemic.”
Congregation member Jim Wood, chairman of the congregation’s health committee, said he would stand up for Newsom personally.
“Unknown to the average Californian, there has been a persistent erosion of funding for local health departments,” said Wood. “California has given up its vigilance, leaving us all vulnerable and vulnerable to future health threats.”
Without additional money, legislators fear that the state will fall further behind in the fight against communicable diseases such as measles and tuberculosis, as well as chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
“We can do more,” said Senator Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), who is calling for a “long overdue settlement”.
“An ongoing investment of $ 200 million will not only help heal and restore a public health system that has been devastated by the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, but is also in preparation for crises that already exist, such as the sexually transmitted one and the coming epidemics are critically important, “she said.
The State Secretary for Health and Human Services, Dr. Mark Ghaly said the Newsom administration was considering “ongoing funding” of the local health departments, but not until next year. He pointed to $ 3 million in the governor’s current spending plan that could be used to identify the long-term needs of the public health system and assess the lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic.
Congregation member Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), chairman of the congregation’s budget committee, agreed that a detailed inventory of the state’s public health needs is critical.
“We definitely need to invest in public health infrastructure,” said Ting. “But what counties seem to want is a blank check.”
Newsom is expected to face extensive lobbying on public health and other health care proposals. Some lawmakers want Newsom to extend Medi-Cal eligibility to all unauthorized immigrants in California. This is an expensive proposition that could cost $ 2.4 billion a year, according to the impartial Legislative Analyst’s Office. Newsom is also under pressure to increase mental health and homelessness, and to increase government funding for people who purchase Covered California health insurance through the Health Insurance Exchange.
“This is not just about bringing justice to public health and the key workers who struggled during the pandemic, but creating a health system that gets stronger with everyone involved,” said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of the Health Access California nonprofit advocacy group.
This story was produced by KHN publishing the California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces extensive journalism on health issues. Alongside Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three most important operational programs of the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a not-for-profit organization that provides health information to the nation.
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