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BILL CRAWFORD: Who cares about health care in Mississippi?


Mississippi finishes last – again – among all states in annual health ranking,” read the December headline in the Biloxi Sun-Herald. “Mississippi dropped to dead last this year among all 50 states in the annual ‘America’s Health Rankings’ released by the United Health Foundation,” continued the story. “As one of the nation’s poorest states, Mississippi has a legacy of poor health because poverty is often a driver, and consequence, of bad health.”

How did our state leaders respond to this finding? Here are the latest stories:
Mental Health to lay off 650 workers by June 30, 2018,” read the Mississippi Today headline. “The Department of Mental Health announced plans this week to eliminate 146 jobs at two state facilities as the agency struggles to close a $19.7 million budget gap in 2018,” the story said. “These cuts are the first wave in a total of 650 layoffs the agency said it will need to make by June 30, 2018. Central Mississippi Residential Center in Newton and East Mississippi State Hospital in Meridian will cut 52 positions and 74 positions, respectively. In addition, Central Mississippi will close its Footprints Adult Day Services program and its crisis stabilization unit while East Mississippi plans to consolidate its adolescent psychiatric services program with one at Mississippi State Hospital in Whitfield.”
Health Department looking to streamline,” read the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal headline. “Public Health districts will be reduced from nine to three to deal with budget cuts, state Health Officer Mary Currier explains in a YouTube video,” the story read. “The Health Department was budgeted $36 million in the 2016 session, which already represented a cut of about $4 million. But in reality, as a result of mid-year budget cuts Gov. Phil Bryant made because revenue collections were not meeting projections, the Health Department will receive $31 million for the current fiscal year instead of the $36 million approved by the 2016 Legislature.”
UMC cuts 195 jobs, eliminates 85 positions in budget cut,” read the Mississippi Business Journal headline. “The University of Mississippi Medical Center today announced it is cutting 195 jobs and eliminating another 85 positions in action to address a recent $32.7 million budget cut, part of budget cuts ordered by Gov. Phil Bryant,” the story read. 
Lawmaker: State budget ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’,” read the Clarion-Ledger headline, quoting House Appropriations Chairman John Read. “Medicaid: Keep level at about $919 million but only $60 million of its reported $90 million deficit is being funded for the current year,” the story said.
Well, it certainly appears health care in the unhealthiest state is not much of a state priority. 
Add to this the crisis overwhelming rural hospitals and the picture looks even worse. Sid Salter recently quoted Andy Taggart on this. Taggart helped conduct in-depth research on Mississippi’s rural, government-owned hospitals:
“Unless fundamentally reorganized from the ground-up and combined with a larger sustainable delivery system, we believe that the vast majority of these hospitals and their associated health care services will ultimately become financially unsustainable and unable to meet an acceptable standard of care.”
Stay healthy, my friends.
» Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (crawfolk@gmail.com)


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