Health care agencies could face cutbacks

Heather Scarlett

Budget cuts could affect Portage County

Low-income families may soon feel the effects of the wavering economy as Ohio cuts back the budget for health care.

The Columbus Dispatch reported on Sept. 24 that state agencies in Ohio that provide food stamps and health care will face a cutback close to $80 million. It has been requested by Gov. Ted Strickland that most state agencies cut 4.75 percent from their budgets to help alleviate the Ohio deficit.

Portage County Commissioner Maureen T. Frederick said budget cutbacks will definitely influence Portage County.

“It will trickle down. It will likely pour down,” she said.

Frederick explained that many county level agencies that provide health care for low-income families and uninsured individuals do receive funding from the state.

“It will affect them adversely,” she said, “because many agencies need these different funds and any cut that is made will deplete the amount of money that is available.”

Joel Mowrey, associate director at the Portage County Board of Mental Heath and Recovery, said his department is one of the agencies in Portage County that receives funds from state agencies like the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.

“We are waiting to hear what exactly (the cutbacks) will mean in terms of dollars,” he said. “What will happen is unclear.”

Mowrey said he does not think the amount of money being asked for in the cutbacks will be absorbed at the state level and so it is anticipated that cuts will be made at the county level.

The Portage County Board of Mental Heath and Recovery helps fund local agencies such as Children’s Advantage, Family and Community Services, Townhall II and Coleman Professional Services with the money they get from the state, Mowrey said.

He said the Portage County Board of Mental Heath and Recovery currently gives around $14 million annually to county agencies.

He explained the money being distributed comes from a few different sources which are:

– About $4 million from Federal Medicaid dollars.

– About $6 million from the state of Ohio through ODH and ODADAS.

– About $4 million from levies.

– And smaller means of funding such as grants.

If the cutbacks reach the county level, those and other health care agencies could face having to limit the programs and services they provide, he said.

“In general it is not a good time to get money because of the economy,” he said.

“Without the funds you have to cutback on programs and that has a snowballing effect,” Frederick said.

“The governor needs to balance the budget, but it is going to have a devastating effect on the agencies that provide the programs,” she said.

Contact public affairs reporter Heather Scarlett at [email protected].