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Health, Science & Tech

State Cuts Funding for Allegheny County Health Department

The Allegheny County Health Department stands to lose more than $625,000 in state funding this budget year.

The state's allocations to municipal health departments across the state were all cut by the same percentage, according to ACHD Acting Director Ron Voorhees. The impending cuts would amount to about 1.6% of ACHD's yearly budget of $46.6 million.

"We're still hopeful that we can have some changes in that, so we can get that funding reinstated," said Voorhees. "But, because of the way the state budget has been, we don't know if we'll be able to do that or not. If we're not able to, obviously that amount of money would have a significant impact on the services we can offer."

Voorhees said the state cuts come at a time when ACHD is badly understaffed, particularly in some key positions.

"The director of the laboratory, the director of our training programs — we have some key positions that we clearly need to fill. The county is certainly working with us to fill essential positions; we have essential duties that we have to do, but it does create a difficult situation when there's just not sufficient budget to pay for those positions," said Voorhees.

He said there are 36 positions open at ACHD right now, and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has instituted a hiring freeze on jobs that aren't "essential." Furthermore, Voorhees warned that 142 of the 380 Health Department employees are eligible for retirement, or will be soon.

The federal government pays for about 40% of ACHD's budget, according to Voorhees, while state funding provides for about 18%. The county chips in about 16% of the budget, with most county money put toward healthcare for Allegheny County Jail inmates. The remainder of ACHD's $46.6 million annual budget is made up of revenue from grants, licensing fees and penalties.