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Pettis County Health Center officials wait, watch for fiscal news

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Several programs at the Pettis County Health Center may have their funding cut as lawmakers decide how to adjust state expenditures to reconcile projected budget shortfalls.



The Pettis County Health Center relies on state reimbursements from the Health and Senior Services Department for funding several of its programs. With a grim budget outlook for next year, the center is waiting to see if spending cuts will lead to less funding for local programs.



Diana Stout, administrator of the Pettis County Health Center, said the center’s contracts have already been set for 2009, and the state has not indicated that the center should prepare to reduce its spending before the end of the fiscal year in July.



About 41 percent of the funding for the Pettis County Health Center comes from state contracts, Stout said.



State money helps fund immunization, communicable disease prevention and environmental health programs. The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program also benefits from state funding. The WIC program provides families that fit income guidelines with checks to buy food, nutrition counseling and education, and support and help with breast-feeding.



Stout said a reduction in state funding would not terminate these programs, but significant cuts could disrupt their operation.



State Health Department spokeswoman Nanci Gonder said the state has not requested that the department make any cuts to its 2009 budget, but said it is too early to know whether cuts may be coming next year.



“It is just premature to talk about that, I think,” Gonder said. “We will know more about that in May.”



With state budget projections showing somewhere between a $300 million and $800 million deficit, the center will have to wait to hear if funding reductions are ahead. Stout said the health center usually knows about its contracts for the following year about the time the Legislature finalizes it budget, typically in May or June.



“Well, it is so early. We’re all just kind of waiting to see what happens,” Stout said.



The future of state funding that the center uses for emergency response coordination is uncertain after being cut in each of the last two years, Stout said. As part of the emergency response program, the health center collaborates community-wide efforts among schools, hospitals and churches to coordinate a response to local emergencies.


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