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Residents Call for Restoration of Health Center Funding at Peekskill Meeting

Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino's budget would cut $3 million in budget funding from neighborhood health center's in Peekskill, Mt. Vernon and Ossining.

Community members made one final push to have $3 million in Westchester County funds returned to community health centers located in Mt. Vernon, Peekskill and Ossining during a town hall meeting in Peekskill Thursday night.

County legislators Catherine Borgia, D-Ossining; MaryJane Shimsky, D-Hastings; Bill Ryan, D-White Plains; Alfreda Williams, D-Greenburgh; and Lyndon Williams, D-Mount Vernon, attended the event, which took place at the Park Street A.M.E. Zion Church.

Alan Steiner, board chairman for Hudson River HealthCare in Peekskill, said the $3 million that county Executive Robert Astorino cut from community health centers in his $1.7 billion budget proposal are funds essential to providing health services throughout the county.

“We have a contract with the county to provide baby clinic services and other services and without that money, we won’t be able to have the funds we’ve had in the past to provide those services,” Steiner said.

When explaining the cuts, Astorino has noted that the  three health centers have strong surpluses, with  combined assets of  $57 million and that the salaries of their three top executives total nearly $1 million.

The county Board of Legislators has since restored those and other cuts to the budget, but Astorino can still veto the additions that have made. In that scenario, county lawmakers would need a supermajority of 12 or more votes to override Astorino’s vetos.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve been through this exercise and it’s just a shame that the people who are affected by this are the one who don’t have the voices that other people with power, money and influence are the ones to have the services that they rely on threatened,” Steiner said.

Steiner said the health center does have assets, but most of it is tied to the buildings the center owns and uses.

“Over the years, we’ve been able to buy the buildings that we have our services in and it’s not like we can sell those,” Steiner said. “We are we going to provide the services if we don’t have the capital that’s represented by our building to do it.”

Steiner also defended the salaries made by health center executives.

“The fact that you work for a nonprofit doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make a decent living,” Steiner said. “If you compared what health center directors make to what hospital CEOs make, it pales in comparison.”

Peekskill resident Genetta Rodriguez said she understands that services need to be  be cut if taxes aren't raised. But she said local lawmakers should go to Albany and ask state representatives to start taking cuts in their own benefits.

“We can save a lot of money there and it will trickle down, save jobs, save a lot of tax money and we wouldn’t be hurting the way we are,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of them don’t need it.”

Liana Fixell, the coordinator of special programs at Open Door Family Medical Center, said the cuts that proposed by Astorino are the ones that are going to affect the way communicable diseases are treated locally in terms of treatment, follow up care and prevention.

“Those are mandated services that have to be done,” Fixell said. “They’re obviously very important services. Our argument is that we do them better. If they’re going to be done, they should be done by the community health centers as opposed to county clinics, which we already know from years past just don’t work as well as we do.”

Wendy Kelly December 07, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Thanks ladies for the research unbelievable salaries.
incognito December 07, 2012 at 05:39 PM
working non profit you are suppose to do with benevolence...but you still need to pay your bills...400K COME ON....I bet the nurses and doctors who are required to make quotas don't get paid close to that amount.
Jill Gertz December 07, 2012 at 08:31 PM
The Peekskill Health Center has been a great thing - but its been overrun by "undocumented" patients who don't pay. These aren't the migrant workers of 20 years ago. These people drive to the center in nice SUVs. They've been spoiled into not paying for anything. The Peekskill center itself has gone downhill a lot. I went there in early 90s and the doctors were excellent and the place was well run. Now I know more than the doctors from using Google. I went there in 2008 (it takes weeks to get in thanks to being overrun) when my usual MD dropped my insurance provider. I was told a growing mole was "nothing to worry about". I knew it was and it turned out to be melanoma that another MD picked up on right away. Thank God I trust my own instincts. The place feels like its run with the bottom of the barrel staff. Many of them didn't even look healthy themselves they were so overweight. I don't mean to be rude. I hope the clinic keeps going but I can't see point in funding a clinic just to support people who break into the country and want free free free on the backs of citizens struggling to keep up
Teleman December 08, 2012 at 01:53 AM
This is the future with obamacare- they want everyone to have the same inferior medical care- keep voting for "free" stuff-
sayitsnotsojack December 08, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Jenga you are so correct there is no such thing as "A Free Lunch" yet more and more people want one. People are in nursing homes that charge $750.00 a day or more and the facilities get to become non profit! Like the health care units someone somewhere is making a lot of money. Time to make them accountable and that includes these health clinics.

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