State budget cuts may affect local VNA

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— Local public health officials can only speculate on the impact of recent cuts to the state budget.

But none of their speculations is promising.

"We don't know how it's going to affect us," said Jan Fritz, director of home health for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

"We just know it's bad news."

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will feel the effects of a 4 percent cut to its budget beginning July 1.

The effect of the those cuts will trickle down to local public health organizations.

Marilyn Bouldin, VNA director of community health, said one of the nonprofit organization's contracts had already been dealt a 4 1/2 percent cut.

The $61,000 public health nursing contract was trimmed to $58,000.

Similar reductions are anticipated for about a dozen more contracts.

People may brush off $3,000 as a small amount, Bouldin said, but that amount multiplied by a dozen contracts constitutes a major blow to the VNA's funding.

"It doesn't seem like a lot, but it's barebones already," Fritz said.

Bouldin and Fritz offered county commissioners their concerns about the future of VNA programs if funding sources dried up.

Several of the VNA's programs are not required and might go by the wayside without adequate financial assistance, they said.

One of the endangered programs is home-based care for the elderly.

Budget cuts could create more stringent requirements that would make fewer people eligible for the service.

"These people are basically home alone without any service," Fritz said.

The only other option would be a nursing home, she added.

County commissioners requested a better financial picture of the fiscal impact to local public health programs.

Bouldin said the VNA was still gathering information to determine how many programs would be affected.

"Nobody understands what the impact will be," County Manager Tom Sullivan said.

Bouldin said the VNA would try to continue to meet demand for its services as best it could, despite limited resources.

Representative Al White, R-Winter Park, stressed social services were not singled out for budget cuts.

All state departments would share the effects of a 4 percent cut to their funding, he said.

"It's going to be painful," White said.

No one department should feel that it was shouldering more of the impact than another department, he said.

"They feel like they are the only ones that are suffering, but they are taking it equally," he said.

"There's not any one department that is being spared."

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