On Thursday, February 4, 2016, Senate Bill 506 was introduced to the legislature by Senator Hall; A BILL to amend and reenact §16-1-4 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended; and to amend and reenact §16-2-11 of said code, all relating to local health departments; clarifying the powers and duties of the Commissioner of Public Health as it relates to administration of local boards of health; clarifying provisions related to the submission of a program plan by local boards of health; authorizing local health departments to bill health insurance plans for services; and providing rule-making authority.

SB506 was introduced shortly after local health departments received the news that the Governor's budget proposes a 25% reduction in funding for local health departments. The budget amount for the current year for STATE AID FOR LOCAL & BASIC PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICES is $16,648,328. The recommendation for FY2017 is $12,648,328, a statewide reduction of $4,000,000. The new FY2017 budget will start July 1, 2016.

As a six county regional health system, Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department (MOVHD), as governed by the Mid-Ohio Valley Board of Health, will continue to provide quality services with maximum efficiency.

According to Dr. Mace, "Smaller county health departments around the state will need assistance to be able to meet the demands required of this legislation, but working together, through the Association of Local Health Departments, we can improve our local health care delivery system and continue to provide the optimum in services".

As for the 25% reduction in funding for MOVHD, Dr. Mace stated, "My 20+ years of service within the WV Bureau for Public Health gives me a unique perspective as a Local Health Administrator. I know that the public health safety net in West Virginia has taken large reductions over the past several years. For example, Primary Care Centers and Free Clinics took the brunt of the cuts last year with a nearly 40% reduction. Local health was bound to be next, but that does not make the cut any easier to bear. A 25% reduction translates to a $313,174.00 reduction for MOVHD; detrimental, but not devastating. I hope that we can soon begin the process of developing a plan to integrate safety net providers to ensure citizens receive the optimum in service provision."

"I will be providing a plan to the MOV Board of Health relative to weathering the funding decrease at our next Board meeting", Mace said. "I do not anticipate any loss of jobs and I can guarantee that mandated basic public health services within our service area will continue to be provided at the optimum level of quality and efficiency."

SB506 supports the idea of implementing standardized performance measures for local health and removes the barriers to receiving the maximum allowable reimbursement rate for services provided. This will move local health in the right direction and save taxpayer dollars - that is a good combination.

Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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