County asks to see more health funds

LAWRENCEVILLE - If Gwinnett doesn't get a promise for more state dollars for its health system, legislators will get involved, officials said during a briefing Wednesday.

According to statistics from the East Metro Health District, the suburban county receives the second lowest amount of state grant-in-aid funding per capita than any other county in Georgia, even though Gwinnett is the second largest county in Georgia.

The amount allocated per resident in Gwinnett is $2.23, compared to $39.12 per resident in Taliaferro County and a state average of $6.90.

"We have prayed. We have beseeched the governor's office," Gwinnett Board of Health Chairwoman Louise Radloff said. "All we're asking for is to be treated fairly."

Rep. Donna Sheldon, R-Dacula, said she would decide in the next week whether to introduce legislation to remedy the situation.

"It's been too long in Gwinnett County," she said. "We have to make sure our citizens have adequate public health."

During the meeting between the health department and local legislators preparing for the General Assembly's session in January, officials discussed the statistics.

Radloff said the financial disparity may be even more staggering if the county's undocumented population were included.

Rep. John Heard, R-Lawrenceville, asked for statistics on the state allocation per client, but officials had not yet pulled the numbers.

"I'm willing to go to war for you, but I want my guns loaded when I go to war," he said.

The information may not provide an accurate picture, department spokesman Vernon Goins said, because the department does not provide some services because of the lack of funding.

Radloff said the county government contributes more than the state to the health department.

On Wednesday, East Metro Health District Director Lloyd Hofer asked legislators for support in the department's attempt to set up a federally qualified health center in the Norcross area.

Hofer said this may be the largest area in the country that does not have a center of that kind.

After already receiving a letter of support from the governor, Hofer asked that legislators from the area also sign a letter of support for the grant application, due in January.