Wisconsin News

Major cuts to county health programs causes concerns

LA CROSSE CO., Wis. - We are just three months into 2013, but already the La Crosse County Health Department is scrambling to figure out how to absorb major program cuts for next year.

Wisconsin recently lost $1.2 million in federal funding for lead programs and another $300,000 for radon programs.

As a result, these programs will no longer exist in La Crosse County and that could have a negative impact on your health.

"Anything can happen at this point," said Jim Steinhoff, environmental health manager for La Crosse County.

Steinhoff said the loss in funds could have a big impact on the region.

"Radon is really a serious problem in this whole part of the state," said Steinhoff. "In La Crosse County about 10 percent of the homes have 2.5 times the level that's considered acceptable by the EPA."

The funding helped the health department provide low-cost radon test kits and professional consultation to the public.


Steinhoff said without these services the number of people with lung cancer may rise.

"We're looking at thousands of homes that should be repaired to reduce the risk of lung cancer," said Steinhoff.

Federal funding for the county's lead program will also likely disapear next year.

"We work pretty closely with families to get into the homes, and see if we can figure out where the source of the lead is coming from and give the families suggestions on how to fix it," said Bryany Weigel, public health nurse for La Crosse County.

Weigel said the cuts could mean waiting longer to make house visits to children with lead poisoning.

"Usually we'll go to a kiddo's home if they've been lead poisoned at 10 micrograms," said Weigel. "We might have to start going when the level's at 15."

Weigel said in the long run, lead poisoning could cause behavioral issues, affect a child's IQ and has been linked to attention deficit disorder.

And the longer Weigel has to wait before helping a child, she said, "The more detrimental it could be to the child."

The health department urges people to maintain the paint in their homes.

This issue is even more important in La Crosse County because so many of the homes are older and have a better chance of containing lead in the paint.

As for radon, the best preventative measure is to get homes tested.

County health officials will work from now until this fall on a plan for the cuts.

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