SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today proposed a fiscal year 2004 budget of $319.9 million for the Illinois Department of Public Health that includes $42 million in federal funds to build a stronger state and local public health system, as well as to enhance hospitals’ preparedness capabilities, for responding to public health emergencies.
The proposed department budget recommends $113 million in General Revenue funds, a 7.7 percent decrease from the current fiscal year. Administrative savings were realized through reductions in headcount resulting from early retirements and other vacancies and through spending restrictions.
Included in the federal bioterrorism award to the state – $40.7 million of which has already been promised to Illinois for state and local public health departments and hospitals – is $24.9 million to upgrade state and local health department infrastructure and $15.8 million to support the ongoing efforts of Illinois hospitals to improve their capability to handle potential disease agents in the event of a bioterrorism attack or outbreak.
“In the event of a bioterrorist attack or disease outbreak, state and local health agencies and hospitals need to work together to rapidly identify unusual clusters of illness,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “These funds will enable the state’s public health system to improve its protection and response capabilities.”
The state’s formal application for the $40.7 million in federal funds is under development and must be approved by Governor Blagojevich before it is sent to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services later this spring.
The governor’s budget also includes $2 million in additional state funding for the department’s Office of Women’s to expand a program that provides breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services for uninsured women. The proposed spending plan would provide community-based educations to thousands of women on the importance of early screening and preventive practices. It would also increase the number of women receiving clinical screenings and diagnostic services from about 17,500 a year to 22,500 a year.
“This additional funding, in partnership with communities across the state, will be tremendous step in confronting racial, ethnic, and economic disparities in access to breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic treatment,” Dr. Whitaker said. “Through routine breast and cervical cancer screening and treatment, women can substantially improve their chances of surviving these life-threatening diseases.”
The target population for the program is women with incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty level, particularly women from racial and ethnic minority groups. The $9 million effort is funded by a combination of state and federal dollars.
The spending plan for the department will also include $2 million to address HIV/AIDS in Illinois’ minority communities.
“We recognize HIV/AIDS is a major public health issue in minority communities in that is the leading cause of death for 25 to 45 years olds,” Dr. Whitaker said. “This money will allow us to fund projects developed by and targeted to individuals who are both infected and affected by the epidemic at the community level.”
Blagojevich also recommended $2 million be included in the fiscal year 2004 budget for local health departments to offset an FY03 funding shortfall. These dollars were used as part of the state’s emergency response to West Nile virus to assist communities with their mosquito control efforts.