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Health departments across state cutting back

By: Melissa Etezadi Email
By: Melissa Etezadi Email

Starting July 1st, health departments across the state will be cutting hours, requiring workers to take furloughs or laying staff off employees to deal with decreasing revenues.

According to director Tim Wright, with the Anderson County Health Department, workers will have to take three furlough hours a week, that equals 21 furlough days in a year. Franklin County will take 12 furlough days while Fayette County officials said last week they expect to lay off 25 workers.

The departments are trying to deal with a drop in state and local funding while still trying to meet their missions to improve and monitor public health.

Some of those responsibilities include tracking sexually transmitted diseases, monitoring infectious diseases, cancer screenings and inspections of restaurants and hotels.

"Since 2008, there has been about 20-25 million dollars in cuts to public health funding," explains Wright, "it is affecting everyone as a whole. For us, we've got about $70,000 less to operate on then we had last year so the cuts had to be made somewhere."

The Anderson County Health Department will have to cut back on many of its programs, including its tobacco and parenting classes.

"There are 21-thousand citizens in the county and our first goal is to serve those 21-thousand people, but the cuts don't make it easy."

Wright hopes with some changes to their budget they won't need furlough days. "If we can increase services and decrease expenditures, maybe by Christmas or maybe by next year we won't have to have furlough days or furlough hours. I'm hoping we can go back to working stand 37.5 weeks."

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