Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Neighborhood clinics may not get state support

WKRN Channel 2 Posted: Nov 23, 2009 5:35 PM CST Budget cuts could close some neighborhood clinics NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Neighborhood clinics would see a cut in state funding, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says its forensics won't be free anymore. These are the latest scenarios played out in Governor Phil Bredesen's budget hearings if the TBI and Tennessee Department of Health must cut 9% from their budgets. The state money for neighborhood clinics came into being as a safety net after nearly 200,000 people off the Tennessee's Medicaid program TennCare. But $4 million from the health department to help dozens of neighborhood health clinics around state would go away under a plan presented to the governor late Monday. "It's likely these reductions will result in many Tennesseans going without basic care, and many of these faith-based and neighborhood clinics may close," Health Commissioner Susan Cooper told the governor. She called the choice "the hardest decision I have had to make" mainly because she says the state worked so hard to find clinics and primary care facilities to help create a "temporary" safety net for those who were cut from TennCare to help balance the state budget in the governor's first term. Monday, TBI director Mark Gwyn told the governor he, too, has made a tough decision. A primary part of his presentation was to say his agency would start charging local law enforcement for use of the TBI forensics lab. Gwyn says it could cost a small agency an extra $2,000 a year, while it could cost a medium-sized agency up to $6,000 extra each year. With that move, the TBI could raise about $2 million yearly and avoid laying off 58 agents. Gwyn said such layoffs, "would basically paralyze the criminal justice system and the entire state, so the only alternative that I see to that is to start charging a nominal fee for our forensic services." The TBI says lab use would stay free if not for the budget cuts. The TBI plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session to allow it to charge for the forensic lab.

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