SPRINGFIELD -- State government is asking more of local health departments but isn’t willing to pay for it, administrators from across Illinois said Thursday.

By DANA HEUPEL


STATE CAPITOL BUREAU


 

 



SPRINGFIELD -- State government is asking more of local health departments but isn’t willing to pay for it, administrators from across Illinois said Thursday.



Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s proposed $17 million budget for next fiscal year is about the same as this year’s, said Greg Chance of Knox County, legislative chair for the Illinois Association of Public Health Administrators. But increasingly, local health departments are being asked to perform duties that once were the responsibility of state government, he said.



An example, he said, is requiring local health departments to inspect food prepared in nursing homes. Health administrators also expect a new law will require them to inspect and license tattoo parlors, a function previously performed by the state.



Among other things, the local departments already were responsible for illness-prevention programs, vaccinations in outbreaks of infectious diseases, making certain that recalled food is not being sold and inspecting restaurants and other food services.



“Our resources get stretched very thin,” Chance said at a Statehouse news conference.



State funds make up about a third of most counties’ public health budgets, he said. The remainder comes from local taxes and other sources. Chance said Knox County receives about $108,000 from the state’s Local Health Protection Grant program.



“That doesn’t even pay for my staff time to do the food safety inspection program,” he said.



Lynette Cale, public health administrator for McDonough County, said she had to lay off 21 workers and cancel a home services program for the elderly in order to pay for state-mandated programs.



Finances are so tight, said Sangamon County public health administrator Jim Stone, that a single outbreak of illness, such as a tuberculosis case several years ago that cost the local health department $70,000 in prevention efforts, can strain an entire year’s budget. Sangamon County gets about $217,000 from the state’s local health grant program, out of a total budget of about $8 million, he said.



The public health group is asking for an increase of $7 million in the state budget for fiscal 2008, which begins July 1. That would amount to about $2 per person, Chance said. Current funding statewide is about $1.42 per capita, he said.



Chance said money from the settlement of a lawsuit against tobacco companies is a possible funding source.


 

 



Dana Heupel can be reached at (217) 788-1518 or dana.heupel@sj-r.com.