JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — After two years of reductions, the Mississippi State Department of Health is requesting a modest budget increase for the coming year.
The state health officer, Dr. Mary Currier, told senators Wednesday that the department has cut expenses by going from nine administrative districts to three. Offices in Tupelo, Jackson and Gulfport oversee the staffing and activities of Health Department clinics in multiple counties. Currier said the change has made management difficult and she would like to have six districts.
The state-supported part of the Health Department budget was $62 million last year and is $57 million this year.
An early proposal by top budget writers would give the department a small reduction for the year that starts July 1, but Currier is requesting an increase of $3.4 million. About $1.5 million of that would be for district staff and offices, $650,000 would be to deal with syphilis and HIV in the Jackson metro area, and nearly $1.7 million would be to track tuberculosis cases statewide to try to curb the spread of the disease.
"You don't want TB in institutions. You don't want TB in schools. You don't want TB in nursing homes," Currier said.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Eugene "Buck" Clarke, a Republican from Hollandale, said he will consider the request.
"I'd like to find them some money," Clarke said. "They got cut deeply in the last two years."
Legislators face a deadline in late March to write an overall $6 billion state budget for the coming year.
The Health Department is also asking lawmakers to consider authorizing $3.4 million in bonds to fund a loan program for improvements to rural water systems. Currier said for every $1 Mississippi would put into the program, the federal government would put $5.
Republican Sen. Angela Hill of Picayune said the rural water loan program would help the people she represents.
"That is just an important thing we definitely need to focus on trying to fund," Hill said.