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June 19, 2008 06:14 PM UTC

El Paso County Self Destruction Update

  • by: Colorado Pols

As the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, “small government” conservatives don’t need no stinking health department:

The El Paso County Department of Health and Environment plans to scale back its sexually transmitted disease program over money woes, a move that could lead to the spread of illnesses such as chlamydia or HIV.

Earlier this month, El Paso County commissioners cut $507,000 from the health department to help cover a $9.1 million shortfall resulting from lower than expected revenues and rising costs.

Health officials plan to cut $407,000 by eliminating inspections for tattoo and piercing businesses and former meth labs, axing a suicide prevention program and a chronic disease prevention coordinator position and scaling back disease investigations…

Deputy Director Kandi Buckland presented the plan to the Board of Health at a work session Wednesday. She said, “It’s not good public health, but we’re way past the point of good public health.” [Pols emphasis]

The cuts bring the department’s 2008 local funding to $3.3 million and come after several years of setbacks.

Imagine that: killing a suicide prevention program in a place that has the second-highest suicide rate of any major American city. Of course, if they don’t have the money to get help in the marketplace, maybe it’s better for the taxpayers if suicidal people go ahead and whack themselves. Right?

Add this to the emergency selling of park land, packed jails with not enough deputies to guard the inmates, police waiting half an hour for backup, not enough staff or budget to properly inspect restaurants…it’s everything Grover Norquist and Doug Bruce could have dreamed for.

Too bad their ‘dream’ is a nightmare, increasingly undeniable to even the most hardcore “small government” Springs voter. They say ‘a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged.’ What do you call a conservative who gets mugged because there’s no money for cops?


19 thoughts on “El Paso County Self Destruction Update

  1. every other county in the state uses come election time.

    “Oh god we are out of money!”

    BS. Budget your money like the poor have to do, like the middle income people have to do, and like the rich need to do.

    Cry me a freakin river.

      1. He apparently has the signatures necessary for this November, to fight the illegal tax AKA “Stormwater Enterprise Fees” that our sneaky city officials shoved down our throats a year or so ago. A fee based on the size of your property and how much rain water drains away.

        Instead of putting a supposed budget shortfall to the voters, they simply send us bills and threaten those that don’t pay with jail time.

        No due process, just Boulder like politics.

  2. The county commissioners do not oversee or run the health department.  It is a state mandated and state funded facility.

    EPC gives many worthwhile non county run agency’s funds when they have them.

    Got a problem with the health department programs in EPC, talk to the Democrat’s in the legislature that control their funding.

    1. According to their website, the health department is overseen by a Board of Health appointed by the County Commission.  Less than 1/3 of its funding comes from the county, but very little comes from the state.  In 2006, it only got $478K out of a $15.2M budget from the State of Colorado “per capita” rates.  It got $325K in Medicaid fees, $3.8M from the county, and $2.2M from fees, and $8.1M from grants and contracts.




      1. The numbers com from the second link.  It’s the 2006 annual report, which was the latest annual report I was able to quickly find on their website.

      2. A little more research indicates that some of those grants and contracts may have their source in state funds.  However, I imagine those are targeted at specific service and projects.

  3. reflected in some of the posts on this thread and more so in the general public, there is little understanding about how state and local budgets interplay.

    What I see in these articles are many unintended consequences of budget cuts, necessary or not.  Suicide prevention and mental illness, for example, aren’t stand alone programs. Funding cuts for these affects other aspects of health care and criminal justice that will be exasperated in future years, making the problems worse for future leaders of El Paso county.

    El Paso county is stuck between a rock and a hard place.  In a very conservative county that is unwilling to vote in new taxes to cover programs that benefit the public, it is depressing to think about the soldiers and others in this state’s second, by a hair, most populated county to have to deal with this.

    I also worry that this may begin a cycle of proposing relief at the ballot, having it voted down by voters, leading to more cuts, leading to increasing problems to be fixed in the future.  

    Although I disagree with the political philosophy of many El Paso residents (and 99% of their leaders’ ), here’s hoping that other counties, and the state, will help El Paso and that this may be an opportunity for educating voters rather than crowing victory about small government.

    1. El Paso County can deal with this according to the prescribed statutes, the proper political process. They can raise taxes or cut services. The notion that they “can’t” raise taxes is nonsense. They don’t want to. These are the intended consequences, don’t pretend otherwise.

      It is possible that at some point the County’s lack of services should be considered an emergency. (Exactly how many unnecessary deaths or how rampant a plague would be required to determine an emergency can be debated if you wish.) Then the Governor can declare an emergency and seize the portions of the County government that should deal with an emergency – the health department, the sheriff.

      I believe that in TABOR there is a provision for emergency taxes which should be narrowly tailored to the class of people causing the emergency – the electorate of El Paso County. Not one dime of state money should be spent to bail these people out.

      At that point the state should impose reasonable statewide standards for health education, sanitation, emergency response, etc. The people of El Paso County can remain the wards of the state as long as they choose.

      1. No one is talking about a state bailout.  Even if the county was bankrupt it is unlikely the state would provide relief.

        No, I’m saying that ‘these people’ are citizens of Colorado and it is sad to see them facing hard consequences to choices made in the past.

        While many poke fun at the Springs, real people are being affected by real budget cuts.  And I agree, this is an opportunity for voters to understand more about where their services come from – if they wish to.

        1. these are the exact same folk saying “no bailouts” for homeowners facing foreclosure, even as the mortgage industry as a whole is under indictment (and hundreds were actually arrested today) for its fraudulent practices. The people of El Paso County made their bed. Now, it’s their turn to lie in it. That is, if the sheets aren’t carrying syphilis and the meth fumes are tolerable.

  4. Thanks to Doug Bruce and his tax-slashing cohorts, El Paso County has been a petri dish for starved government. After this latest round of health department cuts, it’s on its way to becoming a petri dish of another sort.

    From the same Gazette story Pols cites above:

    Although details have not been worked out, the health department would essentially create a set of criteria for people who want to be tested or treated for an STD.

    Those not meeting those criteria would be turned away and told to go to another health care provider to be tested.

    Buckland said many of those who get turned away will likely not get tested, in part because of affordability.

    That means potential carriers of these diseases go undiagnosed and untreated and can spread them to other people.

    El Paso County has been facing dramatic increases in some sexually transmitted diseases for years:

    The rate of gonorrhea infections in El Paso County has risen 64 percent in just two years, and public health officials are unsure whether changing demographics or reduced prevention efforts are to blame….

    The infection rate for another, more common sexually transmitted disease, chlamydia, also is up, although not as dramatically.

    A year and a half ago, the health department attributed the rise in infection, in part, to budget cuts already straining the county’s ability to track and curb STDs:

    “Obviously when we see something like this, we become concerned,” said Rosemary Bakes-Martin, who heads the Health Department….

    Bakes-Martin said that because of budget constraints, the department is no longer following up on cases as extensively as it once did by tracking sexual contacts and ensuring an infected person’s partners are treated.

    “We know that we have probably jeopardized and maybe even contributed to these rates going up by the decrease in (full-time employees).”

    Not a problem for Doug Bruce and the county’s reigning theocrats, because abstinence training has been such a success. But with tens of thousands of soldiers moving in and out of Fort Carson, not to mention a handful of Air Force bases and the Academy, fighting gonorrhea and chlamydia in El Paso County is tantamount to supporting our troops:

    About 15 percent of all positive gonorrhea cases in the county are reported from local military installations; the posts account for about 30 percent of positive chlamydia tests, [Bakes-Martin] said.

    Sorry guys. That burning sensation when you urinate? That’s freedom from taxation you’re feeling. It’s what you’re fighting for.


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