I am very concerned about the health and safety of Portsmouth residents based on Council President John Haas’ plans to correct the city deficit by eliminating the city health department.
The number of programs that would not be done for Portsmouth residents if a consolidation occurred are numerous resulting in life-threatening conditions. As garbage piles up, vermin such as flies, ants, cockroaches and rats will multiply. Vector-borne infectious diseases are emerging or resurging as a result of changes in insecticides and drug resistance. What will happen is a shift from the health department’s prevention measures to emergency response. However, no one will be there to respond. Vacant houses will be left open, enticing vagrants and drug users, thereby posing threats of fire and other safety issues. Animals will run rampant and multiply quickly with no animal control officer to intercede. High grass and weeds will not be cut, providing homes for snakes, ticks and mosquitoes, not to mention the blight on the neighborhood.
I am not against consolidation, but I am against depriving the citizens of Portsmouth the services they deserve and pay for through their taxes. Council President Haas could not possibly know what the health department does to make the statement that the health department is an $804,000 drain on the general revenue. To clarify, at the end of October 2010, the health department had brought in $283,000 in revenues. A large portion of money comes in December from licenses and fees not yet accounted for. Anticipated revenues for 2011 are projected at $312,000 making the amount covered from general fund at approximately $500,000.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, there are 39 city health departments in Ohio. Of those, there are 15 cities with health departments whose populations are less than Portsmouth’s 20,909 going all the way down to the city of St. Bernard with a population of 5,137. The city of Marietta, a city much like Portsmouth in the southeast district, has a population of 14,098, (5,811 less than Portsmouth, 2009 data) has eight employees and a budget of $8,806,098. Portsmouth has 11 employees paid from general fund monies and 21 employees paid by grants.
“Fair is one thing” Haas said. But when we’ve got a budget deficit and we’ve got a city health department that duplicates services.”
Does Councilman Hass mean it is OK to be unfair during these hard times to take advantage of a department who used only 6 percent of the general fund money last year compared to other city departments’ respective 20 and 30 percent ages?
The only services that are duplicated are those that are mandated for all health departments in the state of Ohio by the Ohio Revised Code. The city health department conducts many programs such as the ones previously mentioned that the county health department does not.
In addition, the city health department acquired $2,374,818 in grants in 2010 to provide services for a women’s health clinic, HIV/STD education and testing, Ryan White primary care services and case management, Injury Prevention, Car Seat and Safety Program, Emergency Preparedness and Response, and a contract with EPA for Air Pollution Services. The county health department is not set up to conduct grant programs and there is no guarantee that they would be awarded the grant money even if they decided to apply.
Do the residents of Portsmouth want a council president and vice president who do not value public health and consider the health department to be nothing more than a drain?
Contact Health Commissioner Peggy Burton at (740) 353-5153, ext. 230, or at The Portsmouth Health Department, 605 Washington St., Portsmouth, OH 45662.