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Press Release · September 22, 2005

State Budget Cuts Hamper Counties’ Ability To Deliver Health Services

Hardest Hit: AIDS, Alcohol and Drug Treatment, and Health Care for Poor

SAN FRANCISCO, California, September 22, 2005 – Cuts in state funding are making it more difficult for counties in California to provide public health services and preventive care, according to a survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). Although tighter budgets on the local level are taking their toll on some service areas, other areas seem to be unaffected – and in some counties, some services have actually increased.

Comparing the situations today and last year, nearly half of the local health officials surveyed said they were less able to provide preventive care (49%) or deliver public health services (46%); and over one-third (35%) said they were less able to provide outpatient care to indigent populations. Specifically, county officials said their health departments and hospitals have decreased AIDS education and treatment services (39%), alcohol and drug prevention and treatment (35%), and indigent care (23%). The survey was sent to heads of health and mental health departments in all 58 counties of the state in early 2005. The response rate was 62 percent and covered 71 percent of California’s population.

Health officials were most likely to cut costs through staff reductions (49%), program reductions (44%), and program elimination (37%). “To deal with tightening budgets, county health departments and hospitals are having to consider a number of difficult options – from staff and program reduction to facility closures,” says PPIC research director Mark Baldassare, who conducted the survey with Matthew Newman, former director of the California Institute for County Government.

Surprisingly, the analysis, The State Budget and Local Health Services in California: Surveys of Local Health Officials, found that despite budget reductions, many services were unaffected. In all 19 program areas included in the survey, a majority of officials said their levels of service had remained the same. Maintenance of service was especially high in emergency medical services (97%), maternal and child health (92%), and inpatient care (86%). Moreover, a significant share of officials said they had increased their services in some areas. For example, 25 percent reported increases in trauma care, 31 percent in bioterrorism preparedness, 23 percent in California children’s services, and 20 percent in communicable disease control.

This study was made possible with funding from The California Endowment.

The Public Policy Institute of California is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett.