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Vaccinations, seniors’ meals among health programs sequester would affect

“Over 50 percent of our state health department budget comes from federal dollars,” said MDH Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger.

Sequester cuts could mean 2,360 fewer Minnesota children receiving vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella and other childhood diseases.
REUTERS/Michael Buholzer
Dr. Edward Ehlinger
Dr. Edward Ehlinger

The across-the-board federal sequestration cuts that are set to occur automatically on Friday have the Minnesota Department of Health “very concerned,” according to MDH Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger.

“Over 50 percent of our state health department budget comes from federal dollars,” Ehlinger said Wednesday in a telephone response to a MinnPost inquiry. “We’re going to feel an impact on almost all of our programs.”

In an effort to pressure Republications to come to the negotiation table about sequestration, the White House issued a report earlier this week that includes details of the effects that some of the health-related cuts will have in Minnesota this year alone. They include:

  • a loss of about $161,000 in funding for vaccinations, which will result in 2,360 fewer children receiving vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella and other childhood diseases;
  • a loss of about $507,000 in funds for upgrading the state’s response to public health threats, such as infectious diseases and natural disasters (Nationally, there will also be about 2,100 fewer food inspections);
  • a loss of about $1.2 million in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, which will result in about 1,700 fewer Minnesotans being admitted to substance abuse programs;
  • a loss of about $127,000 in funding that supports HIV testing, resulting in about 3,200 fewer tests being given in the state (It also appears as if some patients will lose access to their HIV medications through the AIDS Drug Assistance Program);
  • a loss of up to $113,000 in funding for services to the state’s victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 400 fewer victims being served;
  • a loss of about $845,000 in funds that provide meals to the state’s seniors.
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Additional program cuts

The cuts are also going to affect mental-health services. Although the White House did not break down the impact of those cuts by state, the report claims that nationally 373,000 “seriously mentally ill adults and seriously emotionally disturbed children could go untreated. This would likely lead to increased hospitalizations, involvement in the criminal justice system, and homelessness for these individuals.”

Sequestration will also cause some 600,000 women and children to be dropped nationally from the Women, Infants and Children [WIC] program, according to the White House.

WIC provides low-income pregnant women and young mothers with supplemental food, nutrition education and health-care referrals. Currently, some 125,000 women and children receive WIC’s services in Minnesota.

“We’re going to have cuts to that program that will be felt throughout the state,” said Ehlinger.

The Washington Post has posted the White House’s state-by-state sequestration report on its website in an easy-to-access format. You’ll find Minnesota’s details there, as well as those for all the other states and the District of Columbia.