State funding could double St. Joseph County Health Department budget

Published: Jul. 5, 2023 at 6:22 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - A healthy dose of state funding could be coming to St. Joseph County’s health department.

Enough to double the department’s annual budget in 2025.

By unanimous vote, the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners today took the first step toward opting into a new Indiana state public health funding program that has Health Officer Joseph H. Cerbin, M.D., seeing double. “Our current budget is around $8 million to, in the second year it would be doubling that.”

State estimates indicate that St. Joseph County would receive as much as $4.2 million in additional state funding in 2024, and $8.4 million in 2025. “All my department heads I’ve asked for and they have given me a large wish list of things they would like to accomplish with the extra money,” Cerbin said.

Today’s unanimous vote amounted to a change of heart for Commission President Carl Baxmeyer. He and other county Republicans opposed the program last winter as it moved through the state legislature. “Well, I was not in favor of the Senate bill four as originally introduced. I thought there was a lot of, too much direction from the state as to how those dollars could be spent,” Baxmeyer explained.

There are still some strings attached to the cash. Opting in does require that at least 60% of the funds be spent on core services, including communicable disease control, maternal and child health, and tobacco prevention and cessation.

“There are different buckets that the monies have to be spent on, and we’re doing most of those things now, over ninety percent,” explained Cerbin. “A few other things we have to get relationships to fulfill all the criteria for it, but that will not be terribly difficult. I already spoke to some people in the community that partner about that and we’re developing contingency plans to cover all the things we do not.”

The program further requires that no more than 40% of the funds go to services like food protection, pest control, and pool inspections.

“I never was opposed to it,” Baxmeyer explained. “Again, it was a question of control. I wanted to make sure that our needs, as defined by the health department and the health board, were met and that we didn’t have to spend money on things that Indianapolis directed.”

Indiana counties who want to opt into the program are asked to do so by September 1.

The resolution passed today by the County Commissioners must still be approved by the St. Joseph County Council.