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Health district funding stability crucial, say forum participants

 | Published on 1/24/2009

Finding a stable funding source for the Benton-Franklin Health District is crucial to ensure the well-being of Mid-Columbia residents, said participants at Friday's Columbia Basin Badger Club forum about public health.

Washington Secretary of Health Mary Selecky was in attendance.

"We really don't have a choice on funding public health," said Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck, who also is a member of the health district's Board of Health. "We're either going to fund public health or we have increased costs in the justice system."

But the state and counties -- two health district funding sources -- are up against a wall in these tough economic times, officials said.

"We have a funding crisis at the Benton-Franklin health department," said Benton County Commissioner Max Benitz, also the Board of Health's chairman.

Benitz said the county's contribution to the health district is limited by property tax restrictions, and programs and staff will be cut if a stable funding source for the district is not found soon.

The Board of Health has asked the Legislature for additional funding. Several commissioners encouraged community members to contact their state legislators about securing more money for public health.

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