Central Health boosts budget to halt layoffs

Central Health — Travis County, Texas' public hospital district — on Sept. 6 voted to approve its fiscal year 2024 budget, which includes $7 million in emergency funding, according to NPR affiliate KUT 90.5.

The emergency funding, which requires final approval from Travis County commissioners, would go towards Integral Care, the county's largest provider of mental health services.

Central Health's board recently passed a budget that was $22 million less than the fiscal year 2023 budget after a change in how it receives funding at the state and federal levels, according to the report. 

The budget includes an $8.6 million reduction in operating expenses after the board approved 48 layoffs, eliminated 67 unfilled positions and cut various programs, KUT 90.5 reported Sept. 1.

Employees in the United Workers of Integral Care union had voiced concerns that the layoffs would strain staff who are already challenged with meeting the needs of its client base and reduce access to mental health services in the area. 

"Our community has very real healthcare problems and a homelessness crisis … and Central Health has both the mission and the means to help," Austin Mayor Kirk Watson wrote in a newsletter pushing Central Health to tap into its contingency reserves. "That would prevent lay-offs and prevent a reduction in important services."

Central Health’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2024 sets aside $438 million in reserves in addition to $354 million it has budgeted to spend on health services and other functions, according to Mr. Watson. 

Central Health is expected to review a plan for how the $7 million will be spent by Oct. 4, according to the report. 

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