Health Department Vaccinations At Risk

By: McKenzie Martin Email
By: McKenzie Martin Email

The El Paso County Health Department vaccinates thousands of people every year. If ballot Initiative 1A doesn't pass, not as many shots will be given out, potentially putting our community at risk. But opponents have argued all along that it's simply a bad time for a one-cent sales tax increase.

Officials at the Health Department say if 1A doesn't pass, they're facing a half million more in budget cuts.

"We have a contingency here in the community who have no other place to go," said Acting Public Health Administrator Kandi Buckland.

She says already their immunization clinic has seen cuts.

"People are waiting up to four to six weeks to get an appointment to have an immunization," Buckland said.

And if 1A doesn't pass, Buckland says they'll have to lay-off at least one more public health nurse.

"That's very concerning because one public health nurse can deliver thousands of vaccines in a year,"said Buckland.

About 4500 to be exact, many of which go to children. But State Senator Andy McElhany who opposes Initiative 1A says a sales tax increase is not a smart solution.

"It's a terrible time, the recession is deepening, we don't know how scarce it's going to be, there couldn't be a worse possible time to raise taxes," said McElhany.

And while it's only a penny increase, he calls it excessive.

"8-percent in Colorado Springs and almost 10-percent in Manitou, that level is job killing, it's an unacceptable level of taxation," McElhany said.

But for Kandi Buckland and her staff at the Health Department, it's another year of cuts that's concerning, cuts that puts lives at risk.

Initiative 1A would give the county a projected 75-million dollars a year. The health department would see only about 6 and a half million dollars over the first couple years, but it's money that would provide them with long term funding.

Below is a list of other services that officials at the health department say could be affected if Initiative 1A doesn’t pass.

 The recent notification of additional cuts came just a month ago– another $500,000 to be cut from the Health Department in 2009. That loss of another $500,000 will mean:
 Decrease in immunizations administered (over 4500 doses)
 Decrease in infectious disease investigations (2500 case infections, also meaning 350 to 450 contacts remain contagious in the community)
 Elimination of school safety inspections
 Reduce animal-to-human disease prevention efforts with West Nile virus, Plague etc.
 Reduce monitoring of ozone, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter
 Reduce workforce development training
 On-going local budget cuts extremely limits staff’s ability to provide essential public health protections in El Paso County (including all of the towns and cities within)
 Essential public health protections include inspections of food establishments, public swimming pools and child care centers to prevent the potential spread of infectious diseases and food-borne illness.

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