Sequestration impacts the health of Utah's kids

05 March 2013 Written by  

Last week, this blog looked at the broad impact that the recently enacted sequestration’s Federal budget cuts will have on our state. This week we take a closer look at the impact these budget cuts will have on the ability for families in Utah to access health care.

While it is true that Medicaid, CHIP and Medicare were largely excluded from cuts, there are many health related programs that were not spared from the ax. Federally Qualified Health Centers, grants to counties to provide uninsured and underinsured with mental health and substance abuse care, and grants to state and local health departments to vaccinate children and monitor and respond to infectious health issues like measles and influenza outbreaks will all see significant reductions in the coming months.

Federal grants that pay for clinics in underserved and low income neighborhoods in our state will face cuts by between 3 and 5.2 percent annually. This may not sound like much, but these many health centers are already several months into their grant cycle. As a result, to reduced the grant by 5 percent annually will result in a 10% cut for a remaining grant payments for a health center already 6 months into their grant cycle.

Federally Qualified Community Health Centers in Utah serve 60,000 children in Utah. The options for these centers to absorb these sequestration cuts are few. Most will be looking at limiting the number of new patients that they see and the scope of services that they provide. In extreme cases, some may refuse to see existing patients. Regardless of their approach, the neighborhoods and communities served by these centers will have a more difficult time accessing a care.

Counties in Utah pay for the bulk of mental health and substance abuse care in the state. Most of the funding for these services comes from Federal grants. Many of these grants are specifically aimed at serving children and families. The Children’s Mental Health Services Program, The Safe Schools/Health Students Initiative, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Community Mental Health Services Performance Partnership Block Grant, and many other grants will be reduced from 7.5 to 12 percent. These reductions will result in thousands of children in Utah in either losing or making it much more difficult for them to access mental health services.

Other public health services in Utah, including vaccinations for children and funds to help the state monitor and respond to infectious diseases will be cut. The White House estimates that 1,230 fewer Utah kids will receive vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and hepatitis. Further, the state will loose $2640,000 that will help respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events.

The sequestration will have an impact on everyone’s health. Health services to our children will be some of the first programs to suffer.

Sara Face Shot BetterSara Gunderson, Office Manager and Executive Assistant, joined the organization in 2007. She has extensive administrative experience, including more than eight years in development at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center. Sara received her BS in Psychology at the University of Utah with a coursework emphasis in infant and child development.