The Healthy Start Coalitions of Florida, so far, are not poised to suffer budget cuts this year. Last year, the group saw millions taken from its budget.
The Florida House appropriations bill for this year maintained the group’s funding at $23,641,947 — the same amount of money Healthy Start was awarded last year. Overall, however, the health care appropriations budget saw a decrease of $54 million.
Healthy Start Coalitions are community-based prenatal care centers for at-risk mothers and babies. They provide education and home visiting programs for at-risk first-time mothers, among other services. In last year’s budget the group saw $5 million cut from its state funding. Healthy Start was among a slew of health services that suffered budget cuts last year due to the state’s budget shortfall. The GOP-led Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott had prioritized lowering taxes for businesses last year, forcing lawmakers to seek high and low for services to reduce.
The state is facing yet another budget shortfall this year and organizations have been warned by officials to prepare for another year of decreases.
This past August, several weeks after Healthy Start saw a 15 percent decrease in its budget and the loss of possible grant money, the organization began the feel the effects.
Judi Vitucci, the president of the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions, told The Florida Independent back in August that two-thirds of the coalitions were already reporting that they had to cut important services and “approximately 100 positions.”
“About 7,183 clients will not receive Healthy Start services because of the loss of funding,” she said.
The group had hoped to recoup some of the money lost in the state’s budget cuts by receiving federal grants. The state had been awarded a grant through the Affordable Care Act that would have gone to Healthy Start and others. However, because the Legislature is challenging the federal law allocating the funds, legislators are still opposed to accepting a $3.4 million grant from the federal government. The state did, however, accept funds from the Affordable Care Act for abstinence-only education.
Even though the state has turned down the federal grant, a spokesperson for the Florida House says that the state is still funding the services these groups provide.
“There are state programs that provide similar services,” Ryan Duffy, a spokesperson for the Florida House public information office explains, “which are funded through the House budget.”
Besides not cutting funds for Healthy Start this year, the House budget also allocates $2 million for the Healthy Families program, $6.9 million for children’s substance abuse services and $3.6 million for children’s mental health services in the state.