Health Agencies Contemplate How To Deal With Prospective Loss Of Tobacco Monies

By Jeff Neumeyer

December 17, 2013 Updated Dec 18, 2013 at 12:03 PM EDT

INDIANA (21ALIVE) --- A host of health agencies in Indiana may need rescued from fiscal troubles, if the state loses out on millions of dollars in tobacco settlement money.

Indiana and five other states are at risk of getting their share of funds sharply cut because of a ruling indicating they didn't live up to their end of the bargain in the 1998 settlement.

A three-judge panel decided in October to decrease Indiana's share of dollars next year by $63-million, money that a lot of health organizations and programs rely on to keep serving clients.

Four major tobacco companies agreed 15 years ago to make annual payments to states to support smoking cessation programs and efforts to steer kids away from smoking.

But in that same agreement, the 46 states that signed on committed to aggressively pursuing collections from smaller cigarette companies that seized market share from the companies that were part of the agreement.

Indiana and five other states were cited for not diligently fulfilling that obligation.

Tobacco Free Allen County and other agencies figure to suffer if the state indeed loses nearly half its tobacco revenues.

" Many of these organizations face trying to decide how they are going to re-structure, if they're going to lose staffing, if they're going to lose programming, and that will all happen June 30, 2014, if something isn't done," said Jill Leal, the Director of Tobacco Free Allen County.

Indiana is initiating efforts to protect its tobacco funding.

The state attorney general's office "strongly disagrees" with the three-judge panel’s ruling, and hopes to reverse the ruling on appeal.

As many as four Allen County Department of Health positions, including part of health commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan's salary, are funded by tobacco revenues.

Dollars to fight AIDS, cancer, sexually transmitted and other infectious diseases are threatened in this dispute, so a lot is on the line.

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