'Dire Situation': Pension Costs May Close Dozens of Kentucky Health Departments

March 13, 2019 AT 6:25 AM

By Chris Kenning and Tom Loftus

About $38 million in increased pension costs could shutter health departments serving 42 Kentucky counties next fiscal year. 

State health leaders are pressing lawmakers for a one-year reprieve to allow time to overhaul a public health system now facing a financial crisis.

The higher pension tab could lead local health departments serving an additional 22 counties to run out of reserves and be forced to close the following year, state officials said.

That would hit a system already whittled down by years of cuts, as it battles challenges including opioid addiction and the nation’s largest hepatitis A outbreak.

Health department responsibilities can range from restaurant inspections and disease outbreak responses to operating drug syringe exchanges and nutrition programs for poor, pregnant women.

“We’re in a dire situation,” Mike Tuggle, a finance officer with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, warned in a recent presentation to county health directors.

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