City blames federal grant cuts, taxes for Health Department closure

Published: Jul. 22, 2011 at 4:01 PM CDT|Updated: Dec. 15, 2014 at 1:17 AM CST
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - When Mayor Tom Martin announced there would be layoffs and program cuts to the Lubbock Health Department last week, employees say they were shocked.

The City Council told KCBD NewsChannel 11 last Friday they are bracing for several budget cuts that include discontinuing immunization and STD clinics. However, Christine Mann, a spokesperson for the Department of State Heath Services, says there have been no cuts nor do they anticipate any reductions for the programs.

Mann says the City of Lubbock will also receive $190,000 for clinical STD services and $232,000 for immunizations for the fiscal year starting Sept. 1, 2011. The STD funs come from the general state revenue and $115, 704 of the immunization grant is from federal funds.

The Lubbock Health Department received funds as a provider of the Texas for Vaccines for Children Program. Mann says the funds are used to provide educational outreach to residents about the importance of vaccinations. For the clinical STD services, funds are used to support personnel at the STD clinic, which is used for testing individuals for STD's.

Related story: Layoffs, program cuts coming for Lubbock Health Dept

The programs that have been cut are funded by federal preparedness grants, and Mann says the Lubbock Health Department has received three of these grants. For the 2011 fiscal year they received $531,462, and for the 2012 year they will receive $453,759. That's a $77,703 or a 14.6 percent reduction due to federal budget cuts. To break it down, here are each of the preparedness grants:

1.     Public Health Emergency Preparedness (intended to upgrade and integrate state and local public health jurisdictions' preparedness for and response to bioterrorism outbreaks of infectious disease, and other naturally occurring or man-made public health threats and emergencies) was reduced from $301,462 to 252,961 (16%).

2.     PHEP Laboratory Response Network (used to maintain confirmatory bioterrorism testing, report biothreat testing and results, and collaborate with local law enforcement, hazardous material and other emergency responders) was reduced from $180,000 to $166,500 (7.5%).

3.     Hospital Preparedness (intended to maintain extensive collaboration with all hospitals in the Lab's service area to plan for response activities for biothreats) was reduced from $50,000 to $34,298 (31%).

City Manager Lee Ann Dumbauld cites these federal cuts as one reason the city need to close the department. She also says the building is very inefficient and it has become expensive to keep it open. Therefore, she says, they are working with the state to move the grant money to other places in Lubbock to provide the services to the public.

For instance, she is trying to get some of the grants can be transferred to the Larry Combest Clinic along with other clinics.

Dumbauld says because of the cuts in federal grants the city cannot pick up the tab. In addition, the tax rate will already increase Dec. 1st because of the recently passed bond which will pay for a new fire station and 15 additional firefighter, she says, and the city does not want to increase taxes further.

The city hopes to save taxpayers $900,000 by shutting down the Health Department building, according to Dumbauld.

As for jobs lost, Dumbauld says she does not know how many people will be laid off. She says she is working closely with the city to transfer as many people as she can.

Health inspectors have already been transferred over to the codes department to save money, according to Dumbauld.

Mann says if the city closes the clinics before Sept. 1, all state grants will be stripped from the program. Dumbauld says the departments funding will run out as of August 31.

Dumbauld says she does not know what will happen to the Health Department building, but she says it will not be used for any other purpose by the city.

Copyright 2011 KCBD NewsChannel 11. All rights reserved.