The Sedgwick County Commission majority insisted that the budget cuts to health and human services were largely benign. Other voices warned that citizens’ health and well-being would suffer and even that lives would be lost.
The final budget passed last week blunted some of the impact, avoiding more than $200,000 in proposed cuts to health programs that aid low-income Sedgwick Countians, for example. But unfunded programs will shut down in the coming weeks as eight county health positions are eliminated.
And as Jon Rosell, executive director of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County, said in the Sunday Eagle, the cuts will affect “core, fundamental public health functions” and have consequences.
County commissioners may be comfortable with saving half a million dollars by targeting community health assessment and health education, immunizations, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and maternal services meant to combat infant mortality, but many others in the community are not.
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Individuals, groups and businesses should step in with donor support where the county is stepping back or out, and be watchful for signs that the cuts are hurting people. More uncertainty will be faced by the private groups that saw their county funding disappear, including the Kansas School for Effective Learning and a Catholic Charities foster grandparents program.
The county’s actions also will put more pressure on the United Way of the Plains, which counts improving people’s health among its goals, to have a successful fall campaign. That will kick off Sept. 10.
Though commissioners have downplayed the potential harm to health and human services of their “transformational” budget and new focus on paying cash for roads and bridges, the rest of the community now should consider itself challenged by the county’s changed priorities.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman