Cuts Could Affect Health Department Services

The Smith County Public Health District has called an emergency board meeting Tuesday night, to figure out how to deal with the proposed cuts in their funding.

Last week KLTV reported a plan by county commissioners that would cut the amount of money budgeted for the health district by half.  Last year the county contributed nearly $600,000 for public health.

The health department's solution, could hurt those in most need.

Leticia Duran is proud of her job.  A salesperson at a Tyler furniture store, she has access to health insurance, but says she just can't afford it.

"I would have to pay $80 a week out of my paycheck for that, I mean that would be half of my paycheck."

With four children Leticia's options are few:  Pay the price for coverage, or seek help somewhere else.

"I don't know what other options I would have if I didn't have the health department to go to."

Smith County Public Health Department Director Nic Sciarrini understands the problems folks like Leticia face.  He says if proposed cuts were to go through, they could be the ones left out.

"They're not going to be able to get into the clinic, the clinic is going to be full, it's still gonna be there but it will be full."

Last year the health department spent more than $400,000 on primary adult care, another $73,000 on care for children and $47,000 more for children's dental care.  With the cuts, Sciarrini says all those services would likely see less money meaning less care for those in need.

"What we're going to have to do is first come first serve and there is going to be a waiting list much longer than it is now and people are not going to be able to get service," he said  "Not necessarily turn them away but we wouldn't be able to give them an appointment to be seen."

A future that is unclear for the health department and for Leticia.

"I don't know really I've been going to them for so long, I don't know where else to go."

Smith County Commissioners are expected to take another look at the proposed cuts at their meeting this week.  Meantime the health department is inviting the public to attend their emergency meeting.

The meeting is set for Tuesday, August 31 at 5 p.m. in the Genecov Room in the Blackstone Building in downtown Tyler.

Chris Gibson, reporting