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Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals | Kathy Kliebert, Secretary

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DHH Secretary Greenstein says cuts by House Committee threaten critical services

Tuesday, May 17, 2011  |  Contact: Media & Communications: Phone: 225.342.1532, E-mail: dhhinfo@la.gov

BATON ROUGE—Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein released the following statement today in response to action taken by the House Appropriations Committee.

"Today, members of the House Appropriations Committee voted to strip nearly $30 million from the health care budget proposed by Governor Jindal. These reductions are neither simple nor painless. While we crafted a budget with the precision of a surgeon's knife, the committee's vote represents the precision of a sledgehammer."

"While the amendments obscure the true impact by claiming these are inoccuous cuts to 'travel,' 'supplies' and 'acquisitions,' the reality is that these cuts will hurt real people in need. They mean that more than 2,500 elderly people and people with disabilities who receive Home-Based Community Health Services today in the Capital Area region could lose access to those services. Even more alarming, fewer cases of alleged abuse and neglect of people with disabilities could be investigated through the Adult Protective Services program.

"They mean that as many as 1,500 children with severe special health needs could lose life-saving care in their communities through the Children's Special Health Services program. Or, 40,000 (mostly elderly) people would no longer have access to life saving flu vaccines. And reductions in 'travel' don't just equate to fewer conferences -- our sanitarians travel the state inspecting restaurants and drinking water to keep our residents and visitors safe.

"We care for some of our most vulnerable residents with developmental disabilities, who would be impacted by a $5.6 million cut based on the committee's action. For instance, reductions in 'acquisitions' means not fixing air conditioners for the nearly 1,000 residents living in our supports and services centers or not specially-equipping vehicles to ensure their safety. Further, 939 families who depend on the Cash Subsidy program to cover extraordinary costs associated with raising a child with a disability will lose funds that pay for therapies, special foods and nutritional supplements and supplies. Another 400 individuals with disabilities would lose family support funds that help keep them with their families and in their homes.

"I am deeply disturbed by the committee's vote to strip over $12 million from behavioral health services. In the past nine months we have successfully transitioned 140 people from state psychiatric hospital back into their communities. Some of these people had been in state institutions for a decade. This cut threatens the critical therapies and medications that let these people live independent lives. And let's be clear: while the amendment says it reduced 'enhancements' to these programs, these are cuts to programs and services already in place. This cut also would mean that 500 of our most severely mentally ill patients living in their communities will have limited access to psychiatric care and lose access to medications. Without their medications and interventions, these are people who will end up in our jails and community hospital emergency rooms.

"We are committed to making sure the members of the Legislature and people of Louisiana understand the true ramifications of the budget's current posture. These aren't scare tactics or outrageous scenarios. The Governor's Executive Budget was carefully crafted to take advantage of the numerous efficiencies and cost savings that we have worked so hard to realize in the past three years and there is little room for the committee's budget slashing approach. The choices we make today will impact health outcomes in Louisiana for generations to come. Let's make the right ones."

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens.To learn more about DHH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.