ANNAPOLIS – A Department of Health and Mental Hygiene official told legislators Tuesday that the agency will need another week to issue a report on the unmet needs of the populations it serves.
“We just didn’t finish it,” said Georges C. Benjamin, deputy secretary for Public Health Services, in an interview. “You’re talking about a lot of information. We’re a $3 billion corporation and we wanted to make sure we get everything we need.”
The report, requested by a joint committee of the Legislature and given an Oct. 1 deadline, will provide lawmakers with estimates of the cost to fully care for the uninsured, the developmentally disabled, the mentally ill and other groups.
Benjamin told members of a House Appropriations subcommittee that in many cases “we’re not really sure” how much money would be required. He estimated that $55 million would be needed for mental health, $100 million for individuals with disabilities, and $2 million for “surveillance” of health facilities for outbreaks of new diseases.
“We’re only a plane ride away from something very bad,” Benjamin said, referring to the ability of dangerous microbes to be transported across continents and oceans.
He added that department employees also need more computers and other communications equipment simply to have access to the same information as the public.
Benjamin also said that there was missing data on drugs, violence and sexual activity in schools, because Maryland did not take part in a nationwide school survey on these subjects.
Rep. Henry Heller, D-Montgomery County, said, “I’ve sat here hearing a wish list for everything else, but when there’s something we can do, we back off. We’ve done this survey in cities, in Bible Belt states.” Benjamin attributed Maryland’s lack of participation to the pressures of “a vocal minority.” -30-