Health Chair Levine Opening Statement for 2018 Public Health Budget Hearing

Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of the Health Committee Opening Statement for March, 2018 Preliminary Public Health Budget Hearing

Released: Tuesday, March 20, 2018 at 11 a.m.

“Good morning. I am Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Health. Today, we will review the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s $1.6 billion Fiscal 2019 operating budget, specifically the approximately $649 million allocated for public health. We will also address the health-related performance indicators from the Fiscal 2018 Preliminary Mayor's Management Report and the Department’s $568 million Fiscal 2019 Preliminary Capital Budget and Commitment Plan for Fiscal 2018-2022.

With the Trump administration waging a multi-front assault our nation’s public health system, the work of New York City’s Health Department has never been more important.  As the White House and Congress work to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, to gut clean air and water protections, to cut funding for health research, to undermine protections in the healthcare system for immigrants, LGBTQ people, women and others, and to redefine sexual health policy as being primarily about abstinence--New York City must redouble our efforts to protect the health of our communities.

And we must engage in this fight without the certainty of consistent funding from the federal government--funding which comprises an inordinately large portion of the Health Department’s budget. DOHMH receives federal grant funding for vital public health programs including:

  • Nearly $100 million for Ryan White HIV Emergency Relief;
  • $10 million for daycare center inspections; and
  • Nearly $3 million for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Neither these nor any federal funding stream in the realm of health and human services should be considered safe in the Trump era.  In fact, the danger of federal cuts is not just hypothetical--it’s already happening.

DOHMH receives a $1.2 million grant in the current fiscal year for its Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Program--an evidence-based, cost-effective program which helps to avert teen pregnancy and its associated health risks for teen mothers and their children. This funding has now been eliminated nationally as part of cuts to federal family planning grants.

Similarly DOHMH receives more than $5 million from Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) grants which were established in the ACA.  But the continuing resolution enacted by the federal government cut the PPHF by $750 million nationally.

The City must step in to fill these funding gaps, and to fund expansion of programs that address other threats from Washington.

The City’s “Get Covered NYC” initiative received a notable success this year in signing up an addition 80,000 New Yorkers for health care under our state’s exchange, despite relentless rhetorical and policy attacks on the ACA by the White House and congressional leaders. But there remain an estimated 350,000 New York City residents who are eligible for health care and have not yet enrolled.  We need to ramp up outreach efforts to solve this problem.

It is critical that we invest in connecting our city’s estimated 300,000 adult undocumented immigrants to primary health care, building on the success of the Action Health pilot program.  This will not only yield benefits in health outcomes, it will save much-needed money in our struggling public hospitals system.

Commissioner Bassett deserves enormous credit for the department’s intense focus--backed by real resources--on tackling persistent health inequities in our city.  But we know that much work remains. A 2016 analysis of five years of New York City data found that black college-educated mothers who gave birth in local hospitals were twelve times more likely to suffer severe complications of pregnancy or childbirth than white women who never graduated from high school. Other data tells us that, despite reaching a record-low number of new HIV diagnoses in the City in 2016, there was a 5% increase in new HIV diagnoses among women compared to the prior year. Black and Latina women comprised more than 90% of all newly diagnosed women.  And children in low-income communities of color still face disproportionately high rates of asthma, lead poisoning, obesity, dental caries, and other conditions.

The department’s community-based Health Action Centers in East Harlem, the South Bronx, and Brownsville show enormous promises for helping to tackle these disparities.  We need additional centers in major low-income parts of the city which are currently underserved, including Jamaica, Rockaways, and the north shore of Staten Island.

I look forward to discussing these and other vital issues with the administration and members of the public today. I would like to thank my Committee staff, Jeanette Merrill, Crystal Pond, and Ze-Emanuel Hailu for their hard work in preparing for this hearing. And I am pleased we have been joined by my colleagues, Council Members…

I will now ask Health Committee Counsel, Ze Hailu to administer the affirmation to the administration.”

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