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New Hampshire Buget Cuts: Advocates Raise Alarm


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http://www.concordmonitor.com/apps/pbcs ... 043/NEWS01

By Margot Sanger-Katz

Monitor staff

. . . . . . . . .

April 20, 2008

Cancer prevention advocates are fighting to preserve funding for a state cancer prevention program that was trimmed this year as part of the governor's broad budget cuts.

The plan, which would have invested $2 million in programs in tobacco cessation, cancer screening and statistical studies of cancer patterns in New Hampshire, was cut to $250,000. Advocates are concerned that $4 million in funding slated for next

year may suffer a similar fate. The American Cancer Society has teamed up with several smaller cancer advocacy groups in the area to run ads asking Gov.

John Lynch to preserve the funding.

"This is no time to retreat in the fight against cancer," the ad says. "Please don't cut the New Hampshire Cancer Plan."

The cancer plan was developed by a group of doctors, advocates and legislators who analyzed cancer statistics in New Hampshire and identified promising areas for cancer prevention. The effort was a response to a nationwide request from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over two years, the group looked at New Hampshire's cancer trends and researched strategies that had been proven to drive down cancer risk and deaths.

Last year, the group went to the Legislature with a proposal for programs and a budget for executing them. The measure passed both chambers and was signed by Lynch, a Democrat. The new program was passed with for $2 million this year and $4 million the next year.

The governor has made $50 million in cuts across the state budget after determining that state revenue would not meet his original budget projections. The announced cuts affect state programs in the 2008 fiscal year. Estimates suggest that the budget shortfall for the next fiscal year may be more significant, and cancer advocates are concerned that the governor will again seek to cut their program to make ends meet.

"It was a little disheartening to see that what can be given can be taken away really suddenly," said Peter Davies, a spokesman for the cancer society.

Colin Manning, Lynch's spokesman, said the governor supports the cancer plan but faced tough choices in seeking to balance the books, and worked closely with the Department of Health and Human Services to identify programs to cut.

"It's a good plan, a good program. It was new money included in the budget," Manning said. "And unfortunately, we're faced with this economic downturn that's impacting revenues in New Hampshire."

Manning would not say when Lynch will propose budget cuts for fiscal year 2009, which begins July 1.

The largest allocation of funds was earmarked for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, after the cancer plan's crafters determined that lung cancer, the state's largest cancer killer, could be prevented by such programs.

The plan also will establish a free colorectal cancer screening program for residents with little or no health insurance coverage. Uninsured residents would be able to seek colonoscopies under the program. According to Dr. Lynn Butterly, a gastroenterologist and the chairwoman of the group that developed the plan, colonoscopies have great promise to reduce cancer deaths. The procedure has been shown to detect cancers in their early stages and to remove pre-cancerous growths before they become dangerous.

The group's studies showed that uninsured residents were less likely to get the test and more likely to develop colorectal cancers.

"With colon cancer, we try to prevent you from ever getting cancer at all," said Butterly, who directs colorectal cancer screening at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

The plan also included funding to expand a similar screening program for breast and cervical cancers in uninsured women.

Peter Ames, the state cancer society's director of government relations, said that cancer advocates were surprised and disheartened by the cuts, given Lynch's previous support for the program. Though he said that he understood that economic times are difficult, he said he hopes the cancer plan will be spared from 2009 cuts.

"New Hampshire is going to have to deal with cancer a lot longer than it's going to have to deal with a short-term budget shortfall," Davies said. "This was really a long-term investment in the state."

. . . . . . . . .

(Concord Monitor, By Margot Sangor-Katz, Monitor Staff, April 29, 2008)


The information contained in these articles may or may not be in agreement with my own opinions. They are not posted as medical advice of any kind.

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