A fixture in the city of Dearborn that has supported the medical needs of thousands of city residents will no longer exist after June 30, pending approval of the 2011-12 budget.
The Dearborn Health Department–one of the last city-managed health authorities in Michigan–will close its doors as part of the to solve a $20-million budget deficit.
The move is expected to save the city about $170,000 per year, according to Dearborn Finance Director Jim O’Connor.
The elimination of the department will also mean the layoffs of a part-time director, a full-time nurse, three part-time nurses and a part-time doctor.
For the city, closing the department means reducing services that can be obtained by residents through other resources.
“One of my jobs is to look at what services are potentially duplicated services and cut those,” said Mayor Jack O’Reilly. “It’s unfortunate–but we have to retain the services that only we can provide and that’s how we’re approaching this budget.”
But for residents–12,000 to 15,000 of whom seek out the department each year to receive low-cost services or referrals–services will become less convenient, but not impossible, to obtain.
The Dearborn Health Department offers services such as immunizations, blood pressure checks for seniors, cholesterol checks, tuberculosis tests, well-baby classes and lectures on demand by a registered nurse, among others. The department does operate an on-site clinic located in the lower level of the , but also offers referrals to agencies that can provide more complex care to low-income and uninsured individuals.
The department was budgeted at $393, 232, including $183, 250 for potential revenue, for the 2010-11 fiscal year, according to city finances. The city will not save that entire budgeted amount because the revenue stream created from nominal fees paid by clients to the health department will not be realized, O’Connor said.
Residents will most likely turn to the Wayne County Health Department on Van Born Road in Wayne and the , which operates a full-service medical resource center and clinic that is open to everyone in the community.
Michelle Sanchez, medical director for ACCESS, said there will be a ripple felt in the city.
“The health department offered immunizations that were very inexpensive for people who could not afford them–especially for adults,” she said.
“I do think that we’ll be fine; we have doctors on-site every day and we have referrals to the Wayne County Health Department on Van Born Road,” she said. “And we’re open to everyone in the community.”
The clinic at ACCESS offers services on a sliding scale for individuals who meet low-income guidelines or do not have medical insurance.
The Wayne County Health Department’s western Wayne County office also has medical services, but serves a large swath of the county, as do its offices in Detroit.
But for municipal governments, which have seen their property tax income eroded and their state aid dry up in long recession, the last few years have been especially difficult. Dearborn is no exception.
And for health authorities run by local governments, the economic downturn creates a cycle of need among residents at the precise time resources and dollars are disappearing, said Robert Pestronk, the executive director or the National Association of City and County Health Officials in Washington, DC.
“Everyone at public health authorities–from the directors to the board members to the employees–are struggling to figure out how to meet the needs of the communities they serve,” said Pestronk, who was formerly a health official in Genesee County.
“The cutbacks are coming from the local, state and federal levels and most of our members are looking for ways to partner up or to share resources,” he said. “They’re trying to find ways to keep delivering the services expected of them with far fewer resources.”
In Dearborn, staffing cuts, the closure of pools and libraries and changes in how public services are administered are all on the table as the city’s budget process lurches forward.
O’Reilly said he expects the decision to close the health department will be unpopular with many residents.
“We’re facing many unprecedented, tough choices,” he said. “The closure of the health department is one of those.”
Once the Dearborn Health Department closes its doors, residents who used the department will seek low-cost services from other agencies. Here’s a few that accept Medicare and Medicaid, and offer reduced-rate services.
1. Wayne County Health and Human Services
Taylor Health Center
26650 Eureka, Suite B, Taylor, 48180
2. Wayne County Health and Human Services
Wayne Health Center
33030 Van Born Road, Wayne, 48184
3. Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services
Community Health & Research Center
6450 Maple Street, Dearborn, 48126
4. Western Wayne Family Health Center – Inkster
2500 Hamlin Drive
5. University of Michigan Dental School
School of Dentistry
1011 N. University, Ann Arbor, 48109
6. University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry
2700 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Detroit, 48208
Dental Clinic at University Health Center/Detroit Receiving Hospital
4201 St. Antoine, Detroit, 48201
1. The Michigan Department of Community Health
2. Western Wayne Family Health Centers
3. Wayne County Health and Human Services