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Local Health Agencies Say They Need Money

Local Health Agencies Say They Need Money



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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- County health departments are asking state lawmakers for more money to keep their budgets out of intensive care.

A possible remedy: a property tax dedicated to preventive services and control of infectious diseases.

"The local public-health infrastructure in our state is crumbling at a rapid rate," said Dr. David Blodgett, director of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, based in St. George. "We do not have the resources to respond to the issues that I think everyone in this state needs," he said Wednesday.

Blodgett and others were in Ogden speaking to lawmakers who control health spending.

"The average citizen doesn't see the cracks in the wall of the public-health practice in this state," Dr. Gary House, director of the Weber-Morgan Health Department. "But as public-health officials, we're noticing new cracks in that funding wall every year."

He said Utah gives $2 million a year to local health agencies, an amount that has been steady for more than a decade. Lawmakers last year added a one-time dose of $500,000.

Blodgett asked the committee to pass legislation requiring Utah counties raise property taxes by 0.004 percent, or $4 for a $100,000 home. He said the tax would raise $30 million a year.

"Do you have a backup plan if this levy doesn't go through?" said Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, noting disgust over rising tax bills. "Is there another way we can fund this without using property taxes?"

Blodgett suggested a cigarette tax, which also could be used for anti-smoking campaigns and treatment.

Local departments get money from the federal government, but it is not a stable source. "We're getting money for things like bioterrorism," House said. "Sometimes these dollars do help to fund infrastructure and things of that nature, but it is diverting attention away from the core public health activities."

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Information from: Standard-Examiner

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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