Scott Walker Cuts State Health Services, Then Rejects Health Reform’s Public Health Grants

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) has rejected more than $9 million in grants from the Affordable Care Act that would have “focused on fighting drug and alcohol abuse; assessing health impacts of public policies; and signing up state residents who qualify for state health programs.” State health commissioners are outraged by the move, pointing out that the state is turning away money “at a time when there is a proliferation of illicit drugs and documentation of binge drinking and drunken driving in the state.” “Wisconsin would put its head in the virtual sand and not go after this funding,” Bevan Baker, commissioner of health for the City of Milwaukee said.

Walker’s administration claims the grants “duplicated existing efforts,” despite making significant cuts to health care programs in the state’s recently-passed state budget. Walker slashed $500 million from Department of Health Services and instituted a $1.6 billion reduction in public school funding.

In fact, some of the budget cuts specifically targeted drug and alcohol prevention programs in schools, while others will allow the health department’s secretary, Dennis Smith, “sole authority to make cuts to whatever programs he likes — or doesn’t like.” Smith hasn’t yet offered a finished proposal, but wouldn’t rule out cuts to addiction services.

Wisconsin is also near the very bottom of states for public health funding, ranking 49th in the nation for state funding of prevention services per capita.