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March 14, 2003


Emergency Health Cuts Notice

By Michael Lyon

SAVE PUBLIC HEALTH met last night and heard a report on a meeting between the City unions, the Mayor’s Office, and the Department of Public Health about the 2003-2004 budget. The Health Department had been ordered by the Mayor's Office to submit two budgets.

The first was a "base" budget with $38 million in cuts, which was supposed to produce the legally required balanced budget. Cuts in this budget involved closing the Mental Health Rehabilitation Facility, severe cuts to mental health and substance abuse services, and cutting the number of SF General Hospital interpreters and Home Health aides in half. The San Francisco Health Commission has already approved this budget and the cuts it requires.

The second was a "contingency" budget with an additional $27 million in cuts, which would be used only if the City's budget shortfall increased dramatically during the budget process itself. The Health Commission will meet to consider the cuts in the contingency budget this Tuesday, March 18th, from 3 PM to probably 6 PM, at 101 Grove Street.

We now have found out the City has quite differrent intentions about the Contingency Budget. The City's new plan is that:

1. The amount of the contingency cuts, over and above the $38 million cuts already made in the Baseline Budget, is not an additional $27 million in cuts, as previously announced. It is an additional $51 million in cuts.

2. The service cuts of the Contingency Plan are not just cutting all eight Health Centers by 50% of their open hours, patient visits, and staff, as announced. It also involves eliminating all day treatment from Mental Health, eliminating all outpatient substance abuse treatment except for methadone, and big reductions in Community Health Promotion and Prevention programs, particularly HIV/AIDS, and Residential Treatment programs.

3. The Contingency plan is not being set up as a back-up plan to hold in reserve in case things get really bad in the future. As of now, the City is planning to implement these “Contingency” cuts as part of the regular 2003-2004 budget. This is not a case of “what-if.” This is what they are planning to do if we don’t stop them.

The city is using “shock and awe” tactics against San Francisco residents needing services and San Francisco workers providing services, hoping we’ll roll over and play dead.

SAVE PUBLIC HEALTH urges everyone to protest these plans at the San Francisco Health Commission meeting on Tuesday, March 18th, from 3 PM to probably 6 PM. at 101 Grove St, near City Hall

SAVE PUBLIC HEALTH circulated a draft of a letter which was later sent to Health Center Directors regarding the plan to cut Health Center hours in half, as well as patient visits and staff. After years of justifying hospitals cuts by saying emphasis on prevention will make hospitalization less necessary, they are now attacking preventative care. What will they say they are doing to justify preventative care cuts? Care Not Cash? Mass sterilization?