After some emotional testimony last week, board members of the Spokane Regional Health District opted to hold off on approving a 2012 budget.
The board had been expected to pass the budget – which has some proposed deep cuts for programs aimed at infants and children – at its meeting on Oct. 27. Instead, the board will meet again sometime this month to go over figures to see if there are ways to make up for a $2 million shortfall due to decreased state and federal funding and increased costs.
For over two hours, residents decried proposed cuts to components of SRHD’s Children with Special Health Care Needs Program along with the elimination of the water-quality laboratory.
Most affected would be children dealing with physical disabilities, cleft lips and palates, and hearing loss, health officials said. Staff members of these programs would be eliminated as part of an 8-percent decrease in full-time-equivalent employees.
Luisita Francis, a practicing physician, said the special-needs program at SRHD is better run and more efficient than anything similar offered in Los Angeles, Calif.
“It’s something you should be really proud of,” Francis told board members, adding that if the children who have benefitted from the CSHCN don’t receive the care now they will have worse problems later in life. “You’ll be seeing them again because they’ll be coming back.”
Francis has a 3-year-old daughter with hearing loss and has improved her communication abilities due to the program.
Donna Pierce, a registered nurse, said the workforce that could be cut “helps children and the families get the services they need.”
“It’s a worthwhile program,” she said.
Michael Fisk, health board member, requested the board take more time to look over the budget to see if it could be modified.
Board member Tom Towey, mayor of the city of Spokane Valley, said Monday this has been a difficult time for the health district.
“You can really see how this affects people,” he said.
On the same day as the health board meeting, Gov. Christine Gregoire released a list of possible statewide budget cuts totaling $2 billion -- $380 million of which come from social-service programs, many for the children, elderly and low-income.
More information on the proposed health district budget can be found at www.srhd.org.