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Politics & Government

DHSS asks for small increase in FY 2019 budget

Sarah Mueller
Kara Odom Walker

The Department of Health and Social Services is seeking a small increase in its budget for next year.

DHSS Secretary Kara Odom Walker made the request during a preliminary budget hearing Thursday.

DHSS is not asking lawmakers to return the $25 million they cut from the agency’s budget last year.

Secretary Odom Walker is requesting $1.2 billion in general revenue funds for fiscal year 2019. That’s just a nearly 3 percent increase from last year’s budget.

Medicaid funding takes the largest bite of the health department’s budget. About 230,000 Delawareans are currently eligible for the government healthcare insurance and officials expect that number to increase slightly in the next fiscal year.

Odom Walker said Delaware’s not in a fiscal condition to restore the funding. So, she’s focusing the department’s core missions.

“So, to fully replace would be a challenge at this time, given the fiscal pressures," she said. "Now if the state were to find lots more money for us to reinfuse some of those programs, we’d be happy to take another look."

But she said she wants to use the requested money more efficiently to target health emergencies like addiction. She’s introducing new initiatives to to connect people with the treatment they need.

“Not everyone needs residential treatment, some people need outpatient therapy, some people need a counselor, some people need treatment when they show up in the emergency room or have a first responder really engage them in a conversation,” she said.

Odom Walker’s initiatives would supply Naloxone to first responders, add 20 additional beds in sober living facilities and fund assessments of people in emergency rooms who may need treatment.

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