Proposal calls for slashing state-funded programs
by Keith Beebe
COUNTYâ€”County officials on July 13 postponed making a decision on proposed Kane County Health Department budget reductions for 30 days, offering a mini reprieve for several programs and as many as 62 employees whose positions will be terminated if the board approves the cuts.
The County Board chose, instead, to seek out another way to ease the Health Departmentâ€™s current financial strain without eliminating several of its programs.
â€œI am just hoping I can put my vote forth towards solving the problem,â€ Kane County Board member Drew Frasz (Dist.26-Elburn) said. â€œWe obviously want our Health Department to be fully staffed, and we certainly donâ€™t want to have to cut anyone.â€
About half of the Health Departmentâ€™s funds currently come from Illinois state grants; however, the state currently owes Kane County between $1.5 and $1.7 million for services already provided. If the budget amendment goes into effect, the County Board no longer will accept several grants for certain health programs because of the stateâ€™s inability to follow through on its financial responsibilities.
â€œPaul (Kuehnert, Kane County Health Department executive) is advising everyone to not rely on state funds,â€ Frasz said. â€œAnd if thereâ€™s no positive movement in a positive direction in the next 30 days, weâ€™ll have to vote in favor of the cuts.â€
Despite the grim outlook, Frasz credits Kane County Board member Cristina Castro (Dist. 20-Elgin) with attempting to salvage Health Department positions by pushing to postpone budget cutbacks.
â€œCristina basically came up to me and said, â€˜Thirty days isnâ€™t going to make or break us,â€™ and I give her a lot of credit for trying to make a difference,â€ Frasz said.
Anticipating the possibility that the County Board may approve the proposed budget cuts, Health Department officials are working on finding other providers for clients needing certain state-grant-funded services that the County no longer would provide.
â€œThe Health Department is working closely with the state and two federally qualified health centers (Greater Elgin Family Care Center and the Visiting Nurses Association of the Fox River Valley) to assure a smooth transition of case management services that would be discontinued by the Health Department,â€ Kane County Public Relations Officer Tom Schleuter said.
Grant-funded programs at risk
Source: Kane County Health Department
Kane County Health Department Executive Director Paul Kuehnert recommended that the county reject certain state grants that fund some health programs. He said the Health Departmentâ€™s budget cannot absorb the programsâ€™ cost if the state does not come through with the money. If the County Board approves the budget revision, the county no longer will accept the state grants that fund programs including Family Case Management and Women, Infants and Children.
Kane Countyâ€™s Family Case Management program has about 6,000 clients, and the Women, Infant and Children program has about 2,000 clients, many of whom both programs serve.