State Health Dept. expected to cut $4.2M by June

Posted at 1:55 PM, Mar 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-10 16:42:38-05

Thousands of Oklahoma families could face a devastating blow when it comes to getting health care. Amid the state budget crisis, the Oklahoma State Department of Health is forced to slash $4.2 million by June.

Officials said these budget cuts will affect every single person in Oklahoma.

Not only are seven county health departments at risk of shutting down, but community health clinics that service everyone could have to turn people away.

Cozetta Tyson is longtime patient at Morton Comprehensive Health Services in Tulsa. She said the clinic is a one-stop-shop to get primary care

"They have the eyes, they have the pharmacy, they have pediatrics, behavior and the lab," Tyson, said. "That's a lot to be taken away."

Tyson adds the idea of being turned away from Morton's services is terrifying. Now, this could become a reality for many Oklahomans.

Laura Dempsey-Polan, Vice President of Community Advancement at Morton, said the budget cuts have affected the uncompensated care fund.

"Our fund, which covers folks who have no insurance, helps people access care, who have absolutely no means, it helps fund their care, and now that fund has been eliminated," Dempsey-Polan, said.

Federally Qualified Health Centers in Oklahoma, like Morton, are nonprofit. they help every person who walks through their doors, insured or not. With the new budget cuts, Morton would have to make some major changes.

"[It] could affect how long we stay open, how many days we are open, how many people we actually can see," Dempsey-Polan, said.

The clinic said 50 percent of their patients are uninsured. They fear the budget cuts will hinder their access to health care.

Cecili Garfias, a patient at Morton, said the budget cuts make her worry for her children. She said she relies on Morton tremendously to keep her kids healthy, and without it, she wouldn't know where she would get care.

Federally qualified health centers like Morton serve as critical safety nets for 600,000 Oklahomans who are uninsured.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health released a statement regarding the cuts.

"We are in the unfortunate situation of having to eliminate programs, reduce services, regionalize statewide services and close county health department sites to meet the requirements of the revenue reduction," said OSDH Commissioner and Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Terry Cline. "These are steps that are painful, but necessary in the current financial climate. Because of these cuts we fully expect to see an erosion of the gains we have made in public health during the current decade."



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