On Wednesday, July 18th, the House and Senate released their state budget compromise for FY19. The budget compromise, known as the Conference Budget, is overall very strong in public health investment. It includes increased funding for the Bureau of Environmental Health and the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, level funding for the Massachusetts Food Trust Program and Mass in Motion Program, and increased funding for key social determinants of health including housing and transportation. It also includes language and funding for a new Office of Health Equity and funds environmental justice staff under the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
In addition, the Conference Budget includes language that will ensure the availability of MassHealth data about screening and interventions related to the social determinants of health (SDOH). This data is essential to understand the activities, successes, and challenges of ACOs and social service providers in responding to these needs. It will also allow the public to assess the availability of social services and identify any gaps that may exist by region, population, or service type.
MPHA is disappointed, however, that the Conference Budget did not include language establishing Massachusetts as a sanctuary state. MPHA endorsed the Safe Communities Act earlier this year because assuring all immigrants in Massachusetts that their rights will be protected and that they will be treated with dignity is important to the public health of all communities.
Read below for more detail on the FY19 Conference Budget.
Department of Public Health — Core Public Health Protections and Substance Use Treatment and Prevention
- Bureau of Environmental Health $3.9 million, a 6% increase. The Bureau of Environmental Health protects the public from environmental health threats such as foodborne illness outbreaks, toxic lead exposure and harmful exposure to radiation. The increase in funding would allow BEH to expand its capacity through hiring additional staff.
- Critical Operations and Essential Services (4510–0100) $17.7 million, a 1% increase. This line-item supports critical services across the Department of Public Health including emergency preparedness, environmental health assessments, implementation and enforcement of regulations, reducing disparities in health care, inspections of nursing homes, food safety, and water quality.
- State Laboratory and Communicable Disease Services (4516-1000) $12.3 million, level with FY18. This line-item protects the public from harm caused by communicable diseases, such as Zika, Ebola, West Nile Virus, rabies, and influenza as well as tests for and protects from bio-terror agents.
- Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (4513-1111), $4.1 million, 1% decrease. Funds health promotion and disease programs across the Commonwealth, including the Mass in Motion Program. Language dedicating funding to Mass in Motion is included.
- Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (4512-0200) $141.9 million, 7% increase. This line-item funds addiction services and treatment including the Massachusetts Access to Recovery Program and recovery centers across the Commonwealth.
MPHA Priority Programs Outside of the Department of Public Health
- Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs)(1595-6370) RTA base funding is increased to $82 million, with an additional $6 million to be distributed by MassDOT based on agreements with the RTAs and the recommendations of a soon-to-be-created Task Force on RTA Performance and Funding. RTAs connect residents to the opportunities and resources needed to maintain and achieve optimal health including education, good jobs, health care, and addiction services.
- Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) (within 4400-1001) $4 million. HIP increases access to fresh, healthy, local foods for food insecure families in the Commonwealth participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) (7004-9024) $100 million, 5% increase. MRVP is an effective tool in helping low-income families achieve housing stability.
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) 30% of the federal credit, a 7 percentage point increase. EITC, a tax credit available to low-income families, is an effective anti-poverty measure which has been shown to positively impact the health outcomes of children and families.
MPHA would like to thank our legislative champions who worked hard to ensure public health funding was a priority during the budget debate over the last 6 months: Senators Jason Lewis, Jim Welch, Joseph Boncore, Anne Gobi, Joan Lovely, and Representatives Dan Donahue, Sarah Peake, Paul Schmid, Smitty Pignatelli, Hannah Kane, and Mike Connolly.
Governor Baker has ten days (July 28th) from the date the Conference Committee budget is approved by the legislature to review the budget and either approve or make vetoes. The budget will be finalized following any legislative overrides to the Governor’s vetoes.
Please contact Governor Baker and ask him to approve DPH funding and the other public health provisions in the legislature’s budget. You may call his office at (888) 870-7770, use this form, or contact him via Twitter at @MassGovernor.