Public Health Division Takes a Serious Look at Budget Reductions
December 7, 2011 – With budget reductions looming as the February legislative session draws closer, Dr. Mel Kohn, director of the state’s Public Health Division, is being forced to take a hard look at making cuts.
“There aren't a lot of places to go,” Kohn told the Public Health Advisory Board last Friday. “We're in a very difficult place, and it's going to be a very difficult session in February.”
In October, fees for medical marijuana cards were doubled, to $200, to generate $7 million for programs such as emergency medical care and school health centers. Kohn said his department is just starting to see the data.
“Are we going to have a huge surplus? I don't think so, but I don't know. Of course, the legislature will be very interested in that,” said Kohn, who admitted there are some ethical issues relying on medical marijuana as a source of revenue.
In other news, the Board began discussing legislative priorities for the 2013 session, among them health impact assessments for projects that meet specific budget thresholds, incentives for wellness programs within coordinated care organizations, and a mechanism to allow re-investment of healthcare savings into public health. Another measure would require death certificates to list whether alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs contributed to a person’s death.
It’s unlikely the legislature will follow Washington’s lead and offer retail sales of hard alcohol, said Bill Perry, vice president of governmental affairs for the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association. Such an initiative would have to come from the voters, he said.
Finally, the board acknowledged the contributions of Thomas Aschenbrener to the public health community. Aschenbrener will step down as president of Northwest Health Foundation in June, and Friday was his last board meeting.