OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A state health leader has warned lawmakers that without legislative action Oklahoma's public health laboratory will not only lose accreditation, but it will also close.
State Health Commissioner Terry Cline told a group of lawmakers at a budget hearing Tuesday that his agency will need the Legislature to approve a 20-year bond for $58.5 million. He also requested $632,000 to pay the interest of the bond, The Oklahoman reported.
"When the medical examiner's office lost their accreditation (in 2009), they're able to continue to perform the functions of the medical examiner's office," Cline said. "If we lose accreditation of this lab, it shuts down immediately."
Each year, the public health lab processes thousands of newborn screenings. It's the only facility in Oklahoma that tests for rabies and drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis. The health lab also responds to public health emergencies and can quickly test for serious health threats.
Fifteen percent of the overall state Health Department's budget is from state appropriations, which is less than 1 percent of the overall state budget.
The department is asking for an additional $4.7 million from the Legislature for the upcoming fiscal year. The additional money would be used for immunizations, replacing lost federal funding related to Medicaid, the agency's child lead exposure program, the interest bond and to combat infectious diseases.
The agency was appropriated $54.9 million in state funds during the 2017 fiscal year, which is a 27 percent reduction since 2009.