Ottawa City is experiencing major funding changes that’ll likely play out in court.
To say that the country was – and remains – divided over the response to COVID, restrictions, and how to spend money to get the nation back on track, would be a dramatic understatement. There are millions of people on both sides of this debate, with half believing that a cautious, strategic approach should be taken, while others believe that life should just go on as usual in spite of the virus. Of course, years have passed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result, the political makeup of some jurisdictions around the country has changed dramatically. In other words, places that were prone to vote in one direction a few short years ago might now favor the other side. As a result, there are significant changes on the horizon in many places, including on the Michigan healthcare front, and the services that are funded and available could look a lot different than they did previously.
One place where this phenomenon can be seen playing itself out is in Ottawa County, Michigan. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, this is a popular destination for visitors and boasts well over a quarter of a million residents. In 2021, some local residents decided to run for a range of positions on the county board and many were successful in getting elected.
As soon as they took their appointments, these new commissioners went right to work on what looked like a mission to remove people and policies that they had disagreed with during the height of COVID. The county administrator was fired during the first meeting, and a vote was taken to replace the officer in charge of the public health department. Legal action is underway over some of these moves and the process is sure to play out in court.
In addition to the personnel moves, which are certainly important in their own right, perhaps the bigger issue is the proposed slashing of the public health budget in the area, including Michigan healthcare funding. From a budget of over $6M, the demand was to get it down to $2.5M, a cut that would virtually prevent the health department from providing services in any meaningful way.
The cruel reality of cuts like these is that many of the services that are lost will have nothing to do with COVID. Things like cancer screenings, a mobile dental health clinic, and STI testing are all likely to be significantly reduced or eliminated completely if the budget cuts take place.
In many ways, COVID is far from over. Not only does the virus continue to circulate and morph into different forms, but the political ramifications and aftermath of the whole event continue to be felt. Whether it is changing public policy to help avoid a similar situation from breaking out in the future, or the use of political office to remove people who acted against the wishes of a certain group of people, the end of this story is still a long way from being told.