Children's Vaccines, Disease Control Affected by Sequester
KREX News Room
MESA COUNTY, Colo. - Officials with the Mesa County Health Department are in the initial phases of integrating about nine percent in cuts to their budget, 68 percent of which is made up of federal funding.
If they don't get creative, one of the hardest hit areas will be outbreak response.
"The Centers for Disease Control ... I know there's some projected cuts for them that are pretty significant," explained Mesa County Health Department executive director, Jeff Kuhr.
Colorado stands to lose about $480,000 in funds that help fight infectious diseases, as well as natural, biological and radiological emergencies.
"There are some pretty serious diseases that we try and track. All of that's done through that infectious disease program," explained Patrice Whistler, M.D. Whistler is a pediatrician at Western Colorado Pediatric Association.
What's even more concerning for Whistler is the cuts to programs that provide children's vaccinations.
"These vaccines are terribly important. We give vaccines every single day, hundreds of times a day," Whistler said.
Immunization funding will drop by more than $150,000 statewide. That could result in more than 2,200 children who will not qualify for shots preventing measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza and Hepatitis B.
"[If there is a drop in immunizations,] we will start seeing a resurgence of all of the diseases that we have been conquering in the United States," explained Whistler.
Locally, the Mesa County Health Department receives about $50,000 to provide these shots.
"It's quite an array of vaccinations [that we offer]," said Kuhr.
Officials say the actual medicine won't be reduced, but rather, the criteria for qualification will likely raise.
In addition, Colorado will also lose about $1.3 million in grants that fight substance abuse. This translates to about 3,500 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs statewide.
The Colorado State Department of Public Health & Environment will also lose about $212,000. This will likely result in around 5,300 fewer HIV tests.
Kuhr says the department has been fiscally conservative the past several years and can absorb the cuts.
"A deficit for one program can be picked up from another program. The last thing we want is for the end user to suffer. I think with all of our partners, our residents are not going to have to bare the burden of these cuts," Kuhr explained.
He adds that another change will likely come from department contracts. Employment will not be affected.
"Lets keep making health care in Mesa County great and lets figure out how to get through the bad times," added Whistler.
Health officials agree that although the change will be tough, Mesa County has a strong support system to make sure every patient has their needs met.