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Utah Considers Dismantling the Department of Health for Budget Cut Purposes

Legislatures are furiously working to meet budget cut demands both this year and next and some are considering extreme measures, such as the possible elimination of a Department of Health in Utah.

Republican lawmakers in Utah are considering dismantling the Department of Health and doling out the various programs and services to other state agencies. Disassembling the Department would save an estimated $1.7 million in administrate costs. Lawmakers are considering the idea in an effort to cut $50 million, or 7.5% from this year's Department of Health and Department of Human Services budgets, as well as, cut $102 million, or 15%, from next year's budget.

The Legislature is trying to avoid eliminating programs and is reminding the public that the Department of Health was once a part of the Department of Human Services. The Department of Health currently oversees the state's Medicaid program, Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), obesity, disease control and other public health services. The Department of Human Services provides child abuse, child support, mental health, and substance abuse and disabilities services.

Department officials advise against the consolidation, indicating that the reason Utah continually ranks as one of the healthiest states is because of the public health system. According to American's Health Rankings, a service of the UnitedHealth Foundation, Utah ranked fifth amongst the nation in 2008. Despite efforts to avoid eliminating services, some are on the table, such as reducing inspections of licensed child care facilities, closing a pregnancy risk line and ending an autism registry. If services are cut, the public will experience a slower response to disease outbreaks, obesity problems and health promotion programs.

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