By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer
Roosevelt County is losing its health council and tobacco prevention programs this summer, and a leader in those organizations believes politics, a smaller minority population and a low overall population are the reasons.
Theresa “Terry” Teti, Tobacco Use Prevention and Control program coordinator and Roosevelt County Health Council member, said the Legislature cut the state Department of Health’s budget by 40 percent.
In turn, the department eliminated funding to the local TUPAC program and health councils.
Teti said there is no one else in the county to conduct programs on such things as diabetes, tobacco and abstinence education.
“It’s going to leave a huge, huge void in the community, which will have a long-term impact on an increase in illness and associated expenses,” Teti said.
The budget cuts apply to next fiscal year, which begins July 1. Programs could receive money again in the following fiscal year, if the state can afford it.
Teti said her TUPAC program may have been cut because she protested about late reimbursements to the health council and TUPAC contractors for what they’d spent on programs.
She also complained that two Curry County TUPAC programs received money while the programs in Quay and Roosevelt counties were given nothing.
Teti speculated that Roosevelt County was cut because of a low minority population, about 30 percent. She also said money historically has gone to the state’s more-populated central corridor.
Department of Health Director of Communications Deborah Busemeyer said with the budget decreases, the department is prioritizing treatment over planning and prevention.
“And that’s simply because treatment is something people need now to be healthy,” she continued.
Busemeyer said 19 contractors running TUPAC programs around the state were cut.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control provides research-based recommendations for tobacco use prevention, and the DOH invested in what the CDC counted as top priorities and tried to make sure every region had a program, she said.
“It’s not a reflection on those contractors,” Busemeyer said.
In Roosevelt County, Busemeyer said, the tobacco prevention activities here didn’t fit priorities.
“The community health councils were cut in every county, so it had nothing to do with the size of your county,” she also said.
Teti said she expected to receive budget decreases, but thought the program should have received half its normal funding. She called for state leaders to find a way to provide some of the services.