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County Health Official Assails State Fund Cuts

July 20, 1989|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

Gov. George Deukmejian's cuts in the 1989-90 state budget will force Ventura County's family planning clinics to cut services drastically, leaving some indigent women without the means to prevent, plan or cope with pregnancies, a local administrator charged this week.

"It's extremely serious. We won't be able to see as many patients . . . and the people who really need the services most won't able to get them," said Dr. Robert B. Lefkowitz, the county's medical director for family planning.

The state's $443,000 annual allocation to Ventura County's family planning clinics, which Deukmejian slashed by two-thirds, means that the county will be able to see only one-third of the 750 to 1,000 patients it usually treats each month at clinics in Simi Valley, Oxnard and Ventura.

The clinics provide gynecological exams, contraceptives, sterilizations, postpartum care and family planning counseling to women who do not have other means to obtain medical care, Lefkowitz said. None of the clinics perform abortions.

"These are already women who have low incomes, who are not eligible for Medicare or don't have private insurance. These are poor women . . . and I don't know where they're going to get that care . . . except these clinics," said Jerry Hansen, chief of the state Office of Family Planning.

Add to Burden

Hansen said the cuts would force indigent women to turn to county hospitals for help, which would add to the already heavy burden shouldered by county health care systems in recent years as state and federal funds have dried up.

In Ventura County, the result will be a rise in unwanted, unhealthy births and poverty, Lefkowitz said.

Public health professionals also warned that the governor's cuts in family planning aid would cost the state more money in the long run. Both Hansen and Lefkowitz cited a study by Claire Bridiss, a doctor of public health at UC San Francisco, which found that the state ends up paying $12.20 in health care for every dollar that is slashed from family planning budgets.

Lefkowitz said he is holding informal talks with county officials to see if the Board of Supervisors could offset the state budget cuts.

Although there are no discussions to close any of the clinics, Lefkowitz said he does expect to cut staff.

'Poor Suffer'

In a hotly worded letter that he plans to send to the governor, Lefkowitz accused Deukmejian of "hypocrisy and deceit" and said that "again, the poor suffer for the moral decisions of the rich."

The letter, which appeared in a local paper earlier this week, also accused the governor of using reasons other than financial to slash family planning funds.

"Everybody knows what his feelings on abortion are, but if he's lashing out at abortion, I think it's very misplaced," Lefkowitz said.

A Deukmejian spokesman denied that abortion was an issue in the governor's decision. He also said family planning clinics could turn to private sources for funding.

At a July 12 press conference in Sacramento to explain his cuts in the $49.3-billion budget, Deukmejian charged the clinics with using their state funds inappropriately by taking out newspaper ads to lobby him for more money.

Planning Doesn't Work

The governor also cited the 77,000 abortions performed last year with Medi-Cal funds as an indication that family planning does not work as well as it should.

"I'm not sure that they're as effective as they would like a lot of people to believe," Deukmejian said.

A California Department of Health Services report found that abortions in California have actually dropped by about 30,000 since 1977, despite increases in population.

Some counties will be harder hit than Ventura. Hansen said San Bernardino County has already notified the state that it will close 11 of its 13 family planning clinics because it lacks the money to keep them open.

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