Oklahoma State Health Department proposes additional budget cuts

TULSA, Okla. -- Oklahoma's State Health Department could be increasing cuts in the year ahead.

The department released an action statement this week that would create an even tighter budget than the plan set out by lawmakers this fall.

Community health clinics are already facing layoffs and balancing budgets in the wake of the original cuts. After losing the Uncompensated Care Fund, these facilities no longer have supplemental funding for patients without insurance.

"The cuts to primary care providers and community health centers have really hurt the uninsured population in the state of Oklahoma, it's been a double whammy. We didn't expand Medicaid, so we don't have access to those Medicaid dollars," said Morton Comprehensive Health Services CEO Susan Savage.

Savage is also concerned with the Child Health Insurance Program hanging in the balance at the federal level. She says preventative care is a necessity.

"You can live in this zip code and have a five to ten year shorter life span than I'm going to have. That's not acceptable," Savage said.

The Parent Child Center of Tulsa is struggling after more than $400,000 was cut in abuse prevention this fall. Staff tell me they worry about the long term impact on children across the region.

"Our number of children in DHS custody would increase. And children who have been removed from their families struggle in lots of ways throughout their lifetime based on those difficult early experiences," Ashleigh Kraft said.

Kraft said without an investment in preventative care, it will ultimately be a greater cost to the state.

"Treatment just costs so much more. In addition, you have all the human suffering that happens when children are hurt that you really can't put a price tag on," she said.

Right now community health centers across Oklahoma are serving about 150,000 uninsured patients.

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