Forced to react to budget realities

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Editorial: Aug. 15, 2012

ISSUE: Health department cuts
OUR VIEW: Service reductions are understandable

Confronted with repeated budget cuts, many government agencies must consider belt-tightening measures.

While it’s easy to call for efficiencies and fuss about perceived wastes, eventually cuts in funding equal reduction in services.

The Lincoln Trail District Health Department recently announced a reduction in its offerings related to family planning and cervical cancer screening. Eligibility is now limited to the uninsured.

The health department no longer can afford to serve a broad number of clients, Executive Director Linda Sims said. She sees it as a return to the department’s original mission of reaching those in need.

With state funding under pressure, the health department has seen its budget trimmed every year since 2008, including a $500,000 reduction this year, Sims said.

The department looked for necessary reductions. It tried to minimize the impact. Approximately 1 in 5 patients who use the health department have no insurance, Sims estimated.

The district also is trying to customize services based on community need and usage history as another way to get more bang for its bucks.

Overall, these changes are responsible moves given the economic realities.

No taxpayer wants to be told public services are closed to them. But the department becomes a service of last resort. Society must remain mindful that people with no other options and without the benefit of reliable insurance coverage have real needs and the health department may be their only resource.

This editorial reflects a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.