HOLLAND, Mich. — Hundreds of people gathered in Ottawa County Wednesday to show their support for the Department of Public Health.
The protest is the result of a weeks-long back and forth over the Ottawa County Public Health budget.
Community members rally in support of Ottawa Co. Health Dept.
Commission Chairperson Joe Moss, in August, suggested dropping down the budget to pre-COVID levels, with a $2.5 million general fund contribution and no COVID grants.
Health Officer Adeline Hambley warned a budget cut that significant would close her department within weeks of the new fiscal year.
Hambley told FOX 17 Tuesday that county officials boosted the proposed public health budget— $4.3 million from the general fund, along with $1.4 million from the department’s rainy-day fund.
She said the new numbers would allow the department to meet the state of Michigan’s standard funding requirement set back in 1993; however, she noted that the department may not be able to provide adequate services required by the state.
“There’s some concerns with some significant cuts to our core public health programs— immunizations, communicable disease, infection and prevention, investigation and STD infection prevention and testing,” Hambley explained.
“It’s emotional. We’re all feeling some sort of emotion, and I think we all feel the love that we’re getting today,” Judy Kettering, an Ottawa County Community Health worker, said. “I am very hopeful, and if the outcome doesn’t, you know, turn out to be what we all want it to be, I hope it still saves a lot of services that the families around here really need and rely on.”
County Administrator John Gibbs said during Tuesday’s Finance Committee meeting that the public health budget proposal still is 22% higher than fiscal year 2019.
Meanwhile, Chairperson Moss noted that the budget is not finalized, and commissioners still have a few weeks to complete it.
The Ottawa County Health Department gave FOX 17 the following statement:
“The Ottawa County Department of Public Health is not a political organization and is not affiliated with any political party.
“We respect each person’s right to freedom of assembly.
“Our mission is to assure conditions that promote and protect the health of everyone in Ottawa County, no matter their political affiliation— no exceptions.”