Budget cuts threaten emergency health response

DENVER — Colorado and Wyoming are middle-of-the-pack in a national review of how well states are prepared for a widespread medical emergency.

Both states got so-so grades in a report out today from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The states were credited for such things as having enough lab work force to respond to an infectious disease outbreak such as pandemic flu. But Colorado and Wyoming were faulted in some areas, especially for cutting funding for public health services.

In Colorado, public health services funding was cut 7.5 percent between the 2008-2009 fiscal year and the 2009-2010 fiscal year. In Wyoming, the cut between 2008 and 2010 was 2.8 percent.

The “Ready or Not?” report warns that emergency preparedness among health care providers is at risk from state budget cuts. Over the last two years, 33 states and Washington D.C. made cuts in their public health services budgets.

Federal stimulus money has been used by many states to cover costs in public health, but those funds will run out, the report warned.

“Unfortunately, the latest budget cuts will clearly exacerbate the vulnerable areas in U.S. emergency health preparedness,” the report concluded.

There were bright spots for Colorado and Wyoming in the report, however. For example, both states were among the 40 states that have an electronic surveillance system to help identify an outbreak. The states were also credited as being able to respond rapidly to a food-borne disease epidemic such an E. coli outbreak.


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