Health Department Cuts in Vermont may make it harder to combat hunger

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Vermont Governor Jim Douglas’ action to greatly reduce the staffing at the Middlebury office has had a significant impact on the ability of the office to support public health in the Addison County.  While a leaner office might have been an economic reality given the state’s fiscal problems, the draconian cuts made have threatened its primary roles of managing the WIC caseload and acting as a liaison between the health department, primary care offices and the schools.  With the poor economy creating an increased demand for health and human services, the timing of these staff cuts could not be worse.  In the 2005-7 U.S Census Data 11% of all Vermonters and 16% of children were food insecure (unable to access adequate food for their needs at all times) and those numbers are likely to worsen in 2009.  The community liaison for the health department must now spend the bulk of her time supporting the WIC program and the public health nurse is trying his best to cover all of the other local programs and services.

 

The Vermont Department of Health is caught between the governor’s mandate and its public health mission.  In order to preserve its core central functions the health department has tried to spread out the cuts as broadly as possible.  Aligned against the cuts are the primary care physicians, the school nurses, the town health officers and various advocacy groups such as The Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger.   The local physicians and town health officers feel that the remaining public health nurse is too stretched to be able to provide as much support.  The school nurses have essentially lost the services of the community liaison and the health department nutritionist is unable to provide the intended support to the schools due to the demands of WIC in the face of the staffing cuts.  Since WIC only covers children 0-5 years of age, the advocacy and community groups are frustrated in their ability to combat hunger in the schools as the local health department office is now unable to provide meaningful support for school age children.

 

It is important that the governor hear from as many citizens as possible that the cuts in health services threatens the integrity of the social safety net just when it is most needed.  Please contact the governor and your local legislators to register your concerns and urge them to reinstate enough health department workers to provide for adequate public health support in Addison County.

 

 

 

 

Contact the governor:  http://governor.vermont.gov/contact.html

 

Contact your state senators:  http://www.leg.state.vt.us/lms/legdir/districts.asp?Body=S

 

Contact your state reps:  http://www.leg.state.vt.us/lms/legdir/dist

ricts.asp?Body=H

 

 

For more information on the subject:

 

Vermont Department of Health:

http://healthvermont.gov/

 

Save our state Vermont blog:

http://sos-vt.blogspot.com/

 

The Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger:

http://www.vtnohunger.org/Hunger%20and%20Nutrition%20E-Update.pdf

 

http://www.vtnohunger.org/info/home.php

 

http://vermontfoodhelp.com/

 

 

 

Governor’s office press releases:

 

http://governor.vermont.gov/tools/index.php?topic=GovPressReleases&id=3125&v=Article

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2 Responses to “Health Department Cuts in Vermont may make it harder to combat hunger”

  1. mfhenriq Says:

    You highlight an issue that represents the growing burden on states to curb their spending and prioritize their public health initiatives. As a Federalist society, states do have the obligation to manage their own budgets- often at the dismay of many, who believe the Federal government should provide increased funding for initiatives that improve the well-being of the state’s most vulnerable populations. I am one who thinks States have a responsibility to manage their own “accounts” if you will – unfortunately, tough decisions are often made and while I am not arguing that the food program should have been affected, this posting raises a great policy discussion on what the true role of states is in managing their policies and initiatives. Thanks for raising this issue.

  2. ben Says:

    This also brings up the point that in a time of economic difficulty, sometimes the things to get cut are not the things that are least effective but instead the programs whose termination will be objected to the least. There may not be enough of a visible impact on any particular individual to merit them getting involved in lobbying for reinstatement of the program. However, the population level impact both on health and economically due to the preventative nature of the program are huge and are the reason that we must elect leaders who can see past political expediency for the good of the people they are trying to govern. Hopefully a campaign to let him know this such as is encouraged in this blog would gain some ground so that these cuts are more closely examined.

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