Governor Patrick’s Budget Proposal Maintains Investments in Public Health Infrastructure

On Wednesday, January 22, Governor Patrick released his proposal for the fiscal year 2015 state budget – the last budget proposal of his tenure as Governor. The budget provides about a 1% overall increase for the Department of Public Health and would maintain essential investments in public health infrastructure that were made in last year’s budget.

Maintains Essential Infrastructure
Last year’s investments in public health infrastructure are maintained in the Governor’s budget, including the $1.1m increase to Environmental Public Health Services, the $1.5m increase to Health Care Quality, and the $1.1m increase to the Board of Registration in Pharmacy. These investments have allowed for the hiring of additional inspectional and regulatory staff to address the serious shortfalls in inspectional capacity that resulted from years of dramatic budget cuts.  MPHA is very pleased that these investments are maintained in the Governor’s proposal.

A modest increase of about $500,000 (~4%) is provided for the State Laboratory and Communicable Disease Control. The programs funded under this account are vital to public health and safety, as they provide for testing of samples for infectious disease, food and insect-borne diseases, lead poisoning, and bioterror agents; surveillance of disease reporting by physicians, hospitals, and laboratories; and investigations in response to disease outbreaks.

Other areas of public health infrastructure mostly receive level funding, including Food Protection and Vital Records.

One area of concern is the Critical Operations and Essential Services line item, which receives a cut of approximately $880,000 (about 4%). This line item supports critical services and staff across DPH, including emergency preparedness, environmental health assessments, implementation and enforcement of regulations, reducing disparities in health care, and monitoring and inspections of nursing homes, food safety, and water quality. MPHA will be working throughout the budget process to ensure that adequate funding is provided for these services.

Primary Prevention Level Funded; Soda and Candy Revenue Proposed
Two other areas essential to primary prevention received roughly level funding: Tobacco Prevention and Cessation and Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Programs.  These are two line items which have seen the largest cuts since fiscal year 2009, and we are disappointed that funding was not restored, at least in part, as state revenues are recovering.

The Governor also proposed to eliminate the sales tax exemption on candy and soda in his budget, estimated to raise $57 million annually. The revenue would be used to support public health programs across DPH. MPHA supports this measure and will encourage the legislature will adopt it.

Summary of Other DPH Programs
Proposed funding increases:

  • Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program: 14% increase (~$440,000)
  • Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Recovery: 3.5% increase (~$3m)
  • Universal Immunization Program: 3% increase (~$1.6m)

Proposed funding cuts:

  • School Health: 1.5% cut (~$171,000)
  • Teenage Pregnancy Prevention: 5% cut (~$134,000)
  • Academic Detailing: eliminated
  • Center for Primary Care Recruitment: eliminated

Proposed level funding:

  • HIV/AIDS Services
  • Compulsive Gamblers’ Treatment
  • Oral Health
  • Family Planning
  • WIC
  • Early Intervention
  • Violence Prevention
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment

Next Up: The House – We Need Your Support!
The action moves now to the House, which will debate their budget in the spring.  Over the next few months, we encourage you to join us in calling on the legislature to support these investments in public health and these new revenue sources.  Stay tuned to learn how you can get involved!
For more information, contact Maddie Ribble at 857-263-7072 x111 or mribble@mphaweb.org

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