Clinic director fears W.Va. funding cuts next fiscal year

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — The head of a Morgantown health clinic for uninsured or underinsured low-income residents said she's fearful that free clinics in West Virginia could face losing up to 50 percent of their state funding starting next July due to budget concerns.

Milan Puskar Health Right Executive Director Laura Jones said eight such clinics statewide share a line item of about $4.3 million in the Department of Health and Human Resources budget. The funding is based on the number of patients and clinic visits.

"Cutting our line item would potentially jeopardize all of our clinics," Jones said.

Chris Stadelman, a spokesman for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, said many patients who have been served by free clinics across the state now have insurance through Medicaid expansion, meaning more costs to the state.

No decision has been made on next year's budget. After two years of 7.5 percent reductions, Tomblin told state agencies in August to keep their current budgets on par with this year's spending plans.

"Gov. Tomblin continues to review budget proposals from all West Virginia agencies in an effort to be fiscally responsible and present a balanced budget, but no final decisions have been made regarding funding requests," Stadelman told The Dominion Post (( ).

The clinic had seen 1,114 people through the first week of December, compared with 1,434 for all of 2013, Jones said.

At no cost, Health Right offers primary care, a pharmacy, dental and vision services, mental health counseling and case management, a weekly homeless clinic and referrals to specialty care. With 20 paid staff, it draws on the help of 200 volunteers, including medical professionals.

"I feel that Health Right is a very unique health care clinic," said nurse practitioner Rebecca Walls, the clinic's only full-time paid staffer. "We don't turn anyone away. If you come to us, there's hope for anyone if you want to improve your life, and we will definitely help you do that. This is a family."


Information from: The Dominion Post,

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