Morgan County voters will decide the fate the TB Clinic when they vote April 9th. Bill Meier says a “yes” vote would save the county about $50,000 per year as the TB Clinic would be merged into the health department.
“Everybody knows the economy is tight and the county is tight," says Meier. "Without the state helping is with the funds they used to give us it's getting tighter. We've already merged the Scott County and Morgan County Highway Department. This is just another example, I feel, of how we can save the county money that can be put to use somewhere else to keep the budget intact."
Meier says Morgan County would not discontinue tuberculosis treatment. State statute requires each county to be responsible for the care and treatment of TB in their respective county.
Meier says the county levies about $120,000 per year for the TB Clinic. He say if the TB Clinic merged with the Health Department, that levy would be eliminated but the Health Department would receive an additional $70,000 tax levy resulting in a savings of about $50,000.
Morgan County TB Clinical Director Rene Graham says there have only been five cases of tuberculosis in Morgan County in the last five years. She worries that number will increase with less funding.
“Currently, we're only required to provide for the diagnostic and treatment of active TB cases," says Graham. "We do a lot of screening now for potential hires, group homes, colleges, schools, Wells Center, homeless centers, hospice and Passavant volunteers. All of those people receive skin tests and those services won't be provided. The health department is not going to be able to go out and offer all of those services to people, and I feel like prevention is the key with TB."
Morgan County Health Department Director Rich Smith says his staff will face more responsibility if the tax levy for the TB Clinic is discontinued.
“We’ll probably look at rearranging nursing staff," says Smith. "It doesn't look like we're going to have the money to hire an individual to just do TB, but we hope we can meet the basic mandates of the administrative code of communicable disease."
Meier says if the referendum fails April 9th, the county will be forced to cut money somewhere else.
“If we have to keep levying the TB Clinic for $120,000 a year there's just no way we can levy everybody as we have in the past because the funds aren't there and the equalized assessed evaluation is going down," says Meier. "So, there's going to have to be some cuts made. We'll just have to see what happens with the April 9th election and go from there."
He says Morgan County is one of only two counties in Illinois that still has a standalone TB clinic.