County Will Use Grant to Aid Poor

Times Staff Writer

After weeks of lobbying by Orange County hospitals and health care groups, the Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday to spend most of a $6.1-million, one-time state grant on social and medical services for the indigent.

The money came from the Legislature last year as part of a no-strings-attached grant to financially strapped counties.

Members of Orange County's health-care community have argued that the lion's share of the $6.1 million should go to medical services for the indigent because the Legislature did not appropriate as much for health care for the current fiscal year as had been expected. Health-care leaders have long complained that government funding levels for indigent medical services have been seriously eroding in recent years.

After the supervisors' meeting Tuesday, health-care leaders commended the board for its action.

'Just a Pittance'

"It shows they're responsive to the concerns that all of these organizations have," said Chauncey A. Alexander, chairman of the United Way Health Care Task Force. "The important thing that came out here today is that this is just a pittance compared to what this county needs."

"All it means is that I won't have to cut services here," said Tom Uram, director of the county Health Care Agency. "This money did not increase services."

Of the $6.1-million grant, the supervisors distributed about $5 million to health-care services and some social programs such as foster care and children's day care. About $2 million of that was to reimburse doctors and hospitals for treating indigent patients.

Some of the other programs that will receive funds include free clinics, care for the mentally ill, prenatal services for indigent mothers and emergency dental care for poor patients.

A total of $1.1 million was set aside for health care and social services in the next fiscal year's budget, when officials predict financial constraints are going to be even tighter.

The health-care allocation was almost $3 million more than county officials had offered in a preliminary recommendation last month.

John Sibley, associate county administrative officer, said the first recommendation was based on the need to save for the following year. After researching the needs of the health-care community, however, the county administrative office increased its recommended allocation from about $2 million to about $4.8 million, Sibley said.

Tuesday, the supervisors added another $200,000 to that amount.

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