Public Health budget updateIn November, the 2015/2016 Public Health budget was finalized by the King County Council. Public Health's original budget proposal to balance revenues and expenditures included closing public health centers and cutting programs in Prevention Division, among other significant cuts, and reducing staff by over 200. Some of these reductions, particularly in our health centers and Prevention Division, were avoided.
Thanks to our leadership and the work of many partners including cities and labor, the Council supported preserving services at four at-risk public health centers for two years, with the exception that Northshore was preserved for one year. This outcome would not have been possible without support from both represented and non-represented staff, re-prioritizing internal resources, and further reducing administration. The transfer of primary care at two of our sites (North to NeighborCare; Columbia to NeighborCare and University of Washington/Harborview Medical Center) will move forward along with reduction of family planning at those sites and transfer of family planning to Planned Parenthood at Greenbridge.
Prevention Division will be experiencing some service reductions, though reductions in communicable disease were partially mitigated through Administrative reductions.
While much progress was made in addressing the $30 million deficit in the Public Health Fund, we will enter the next biennium with a projected deficit of over $4 million. This reinforces our urgency in finding new, stable funding sources as well as continuing our efforts to identify efficiencies and save money.
Jail Health Services, which is recognized County-wide for its LEAN work, was asked to set financial targets to be met through increased efficiencies.
The Council was particularly interested in the Environmental Health budget. The division requested additional fee supported staff to move critical work forward. Council allocated a portion of this request and included provisos that asked us to develop options for the Board of Health that would keep fees as low as possible.
The Council also asked that Emergency Medical Services (EMS) review the impact of centralized costs to the levy and EMS providers.
Public Health will work to continue to improve our service delivery models to be as efficient as possible, as well as develop partnerships. The department will also work urgently to find new funding sources, because the funding provided in this budget is only temporary. Without a long term, stable funding source for Public Health, more, deeper cuts will be inevitable. The silver lining to the budget process this year is that it sparked a public discussion about the value of public health. The Executive's Best Starts for Kids initiative would, if enacted, be one important strategy for funding both our system/policy work and early intervention services to families.
For more information on the budget, please visit: