LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness is bracing for some potentially major changes.
Under potential budget cuts, Metro Public Health and Wellness would have to lay off 22 people and face a funding cut of more than $2 million.
“It's going to be tough,” said Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the city's health department. “Kentucky spends very little on public health to begin with, so any cut is huge to our budget."
Cuts of this magnitude would mean Metro Public Health and Wellness would no longer give vaccines for illnesses or diseases like the flu and hepatitis A.
“It would really mean that the medical community would really have to step up and make sure everyone is immunized against the flu and other things,” she said.
This comes as Louisville had a record number of flu cases just this week at 921 and as Louisville had the largest hepatitis A outbreak in the country. Moyer said if the cuts came during the outbreak, it would be a tough situation.
“We would have had a much larger hep A outbreak last year, and flu would be worse,” she said.
There would also be less access to the needle exchange program, which could mean an increase in HIV rates, less referrals to substance abuse treatment and a potential increase in overdose deaths.
“All the services that we provide are really important,” Moyer said.
The possible cuts for next year come from Mayor Greg Fischer trying to fill a $65 million budget shortfall the next four years. He blames it on state-mandated pension increases the city is required to pay.
Moyer said the public health system can only take so much of a cut.
“That's the great thing about public health: When we're doing our job, you don't know we exist," she said. "So we don't have the huge advocacy groups that other people might have, but you'll know it when your public health system breaks down."
Other possible cuts include limited access to programs for people with mental illness and closing down a specialty clinic that sees thousands of patients a year.
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