June 19, 2009

State’s budget temporarily spares certain health programs from cuts

State's budget temporarily spares certain health programs from cuts

The Tennessee Poison Control Center and other health care programs affiliated with Vanderbilt Medical Center have been spared the budget-cutters’ ax – at least for the time being.

Under the state budget approved by the Tennessee General Assembly this week, the Poison Control Center will receive $375,000 in non-recurring funds in the 2009-2010 fiscal year beginning July 1.

However, that amount of state funding for the program is slated to be eliminated at the end of June, 2010, a state official said. And if state revenues continue to decline sharply due to the recession, cuts could occur more quickly.

The loss of $375,000 in state funds would jeopardize matching federal funds and might cause the center to close, Vanderbilt officials said.

Based at Vanderbilt Medical Center, the Tennessee Poison Control Center is the only organization in Tennessee with board certified medical toxicologists on staff who have the expertise to deal with environmental disasters. It also is the only state organization that provides bioterrorism surveillance in each of the state’s 95 counties.

The budget passed this week also secured funding – at least for the time being – for other Vanderbilt-affiliated maternal health and perinatal programs that are attempting to reduce the state’s high rates of premature delivery and infant mortality.

These programs, which are funded through the Governor’s Office of Children’s Care Coordination, include the Perinatal Regionalization Grant, which supports services and outreach education, and the Tennessee Initiative for Perinatal Quality Care (TIPQC), based at Vanderbilt Medical Center.

Last year the TIPQC began working with all 25 neonatal intensive care units in Tennessee and with obstetrical providers to implement evidence-based practices to improve prenatal care, reduce infant mortality and reduce complications of premature delivery.

Tennessee currently ranks 45th in the nation for infant mortality. The state’s preterm birth rate has been rising steadily during the past 15 years and last year was 14.7 percent, according to the initiative.