Philly Health Commissioner Lays Out Gov. Corbett’s Cuts by the Numbers
Philadelphia City Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz held a press conference this afternoon with regard to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget cuts. In no uncertain terms, Schwarz had a message: We’re fucked.
“This budget takes apart many of the supports that have been in place for a very long time for people who are particularly vulnerable in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” he said, “with impacts that are dramatic for the city of Philadelphia.” As previously reported, Philly will lose $41 million in the proposed budget.
Because of Philadelphia’s place as both a city and country in Pennsylvania (fun fact: We’re one of six city/counties in the entire country) the functions provided to Philadelphia as a municipality and those provided by Philly as a county are both cut.
“When the state cuts its budget, many of the dollars that we’re talking about are dollars that have not been in play with discussions with City Council,” he said, noting the money in play is all determined by the state. What’s happening he said, is the taking apart of a legislative agenda that’s been in place for more than 40 years. The biggest programs that’ll be damaged include services for the mentally ill, young adults moving from, drug and alcohol treatment, services for delinquent children, services for those with HIV/AIDS, food stamp benefits, after school programs, and homeless support for those hoping to move on from life in a shelter. The funds for these services are all controlled by the state. The Administration says the cuts come with new opportunities for more flexible uses of the cash.
But what does that mean, in human terms? “There are folks with HIV who will die on the streets in Philadelphia,” said Schwarz.
The governor has put all these services together in what’s called a Block Grant and cut it by 20 percent. Of the city’s Health and Opportunity funding sources, 51 percent of the funding is made up of state money, 8 percent is local and 40 percent is federal.
Schwarz laid out the cuts based on an all-around 20 percent trim. And those specifics are devastating.
Mental health residential programs in the city, he said, will lose 500-600 beds; about 4,000 uninsured individuals with serious mental health illness will lose their outpatient services; 6-8 community walk-in centers for the mentally ill will be eliminated; 437 beds for those at drug and alcohol addiction centers will be gone; 3,000 people with intellectual disabilities will see a reduction in support; and 575 families per year will lose their DHS housing supports. For starters.
Gov. Corbett said the point of his budget is to “right-size” the public welfare system. He has refused to raise taxes during this Year of the Bible.
Schwarz continued, saying the city will need to cut half its daytime emergency teams and much of its Code Blue staff, which take care of the homeless at night when temperatures are extremely low. With the aforementioned cuts, the city expects an increase in the homeless population and street population with “less capacity to serve them.” The health department called this an “Equation for disaster” — the end result being not just homelessness, but more institutionalized citizens and a larger jail population.