Levy warns of health center closings

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy raised the specter Monday of two health centers closing and funding cutbacks of 20 percent at seven others by July 1 if state officials do not roll back $30 million in local health aid cuts.

As many as 277 layoffs of county and contract workers are possible, officials also said.

"If we do not get this money back, it will be as severe a blow as we have ever seen at our county health centers," said Levy.


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Levy made his comments at a news conference in the lobby of the H. Lee Dennison Building, surrounded by 11 lawmakers of both parties, other officials and community leaders. Behind them was a large banner that read: "Stop the Cost Shift. Don't let New York State Close our Health Centers."

Levy said cutback plans are still "fluid," but that his current proposal is to close the Dolan health center in Greenlawn and the Coram health center, operated under contract by Stony Brook University Hospital. He said the other option would be to cut funding to all the health centers by 30 percent.

Budget Director Connie Corso estimated that 192 of the potential layoffs could come from workers employed by hospitals that run most of Suffolk's health centers under contract. The 85 other layoffs would be of county employees who work at county-run health centers, as well as other health department staff.

Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) said the state cutbacks would drive patients to already overcrowded emergency rooms. "This is not just unfair, it's stupid," he said. "Talk about what is not a good example of mandate relief."

Morris Peters, spokesman for the state Division of Budget in Albany, said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo "has said that every level of government must cut spending and protect taxpayers, and the state is leading by example by reducing agency spending by 10 percent across the board. The total impact of the executive budget on counties represents less than one percent of their budgets. Just like families and small businesses have done, counties must adjust to the new fiscal reality."

The complaints by Levy and other officials at the news conference center in part on cuts imposed late last year but retroactive to 2008. State funding was axed for 12,000 adults with chronic ailments such as asthma and high blood pressure. The cuts also affected programs for training volunteer emergency workers, and lopped 36 percent off the county crime lab's budget.

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