Local agencies could be impacted by sequestration, lose funding, services

  • Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013 12:45 a.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, February 28, 2013 12:46 a.m.
Joan Vest, a Registered Nurse with the Rowan County Health Department, gives Matt Biles an immunization at the RC Health Department on Wednesday. Vest's primary job involves giving immunizations out to the public, mostly children. Part of the nationally discussed topic about sequesteration- large cuts which impact agencies who receive federal funds. Photo by Jon C. Lakey, Salisbury Post.
Joan Vest, a Registered Nurse with the Rowan County Health Department, gives Matt Biles an immunization at the RC Health Department on Wednesday. Vest's primary job involves giving immunizations out to the public, mostly children. Part of the nationally discussed topic about sequesteration- large cuts which impact agencies who receive federal funds. Photo by Jon C. Lakey, Salisbury Post.

Matt Biles rolled up the sleeve to his left arm and within a moment his tetanus shot was over.

The China Grove native got his tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine at the Rowan County Health Department before the immunization program could be affected by automatic funding cuts to come if Congress doesn't act to eliminate the sequestration.


Fewer children in North Carolina will receive vaccines for diseases such as whooping cough, measles, tetanus, rubella and Hepatitis B if funding is reduced.

Biles is eligible to get the vaccine through a state-funded program because he is uninsured after being laid off from U.S. Foods in Charlotte. He's preparing to begin a nursing program and must have a tetanus shot first. He got his Wednesday.

“I don't know what I was going to do had this not been available,” Biles said.

The other area agency includes Family Crisis Council of Rowan.

Sequestration can be avoided if Congress passes legislation that reverses the legal requirement in the Budget Control Act and if President Obama is willing to sign that proposal before the Friday deadline. The Budget Control Act established a super committee that was charged with coming up with a way to reduce the deficit, but no agreement was reached. The first round of cuts will take place Friday.

Biles said he's followed some of the sequestration discussions in the news and is grateful he was able to get his tetanus shot.

Sharon Owen, a public health nurse manager with the county health department, said, “We do receive federal funds through our agreement through the state to provide vaccines for children and some limited vaccines to adults. When those funds are not available, then it would limit vaccines that the state could potentially make available to us.”

If the cuts are made, 3,550 fewer children will receive vaccines due to $243,000 in reduced statewide funding.

Owen said it may come down to having to prioritize vaccines or place people on waiting lists.

The department has already undergone state cuts of about $14,000 to $15,000 and have to prioritize vaccines for the remainder of the year, Owen said.

Health Director Barbara Ellis said the department has not received any official notification of what percentage of cuts the department could face.

“It is important and we do hope they do come to a consensus before March 1. We will try to work through it as best we can and prioritize,” Ellis said.

If the department had a shortage of vaccines, Ellis said, Rowan County could borrow vaccines from neighboring counties with a surplus.

Ellis said she hopes the cuts don't occur, but if they do, it could lead to a re-emergence of diseases that have been essentially eradicated, such as measles and whooping cough.

The Family Crisis Council, a nonprofit agency that receives much of its funding through grants from the Governor's Crime Commission, provides a temporary shelter for victims of domestic violence, counseling services, court advocacy, a rape and sexual assault program and other crisis intervention programs.

North Carolina could lose up to $205,000 in funds that provides services to domestic violence victims, resulting in 800 fewer victims who could be served.

“It's filtered down through the state and it could cause us to lose a lot of our services that we now provide,” said Executive Director Renee Bradshaw.

She said there's been no indication from the state that the agency could lose funding, but if cuts occur, the agency may have to give up its court advocacy program, shelter director and some staffing.

If funding is reduced Bradshaw said the agency would not be able to help as many victims.

The agency does have funding through this fiscal year, which ends in July.

“We need a certain amount to make our budget. If we don't get it, we have to cut our people and we would have to look for other funding sources in the form of private agencies,” Bradshaw said.

 
 
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.

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