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Proposed Budget: Building Healthy Communities

Two adults hold hands outside in winter.

Public health activities lay the groundwork for healthy communities. They protect us from diseases and injury we cannot prevent alone and help us change behaviors harmful to our health.

Public health works to:

  • Prevent epidemics.
  • Protect the environment, workplaces, housing, food, and water.
  • Promote healthy behavior.
  • Monitor the health of the population.
  • Mobilize community for action.
  • Respond to disasters.
  • Assure that medical services are high quality and necessary
  • Train specialists in investigating and preventing diseases.
  • Develop policies that promote health and well-being.

Compared to the rest of the nation, Wisconsin has been significantly underfunding its public health efforts for years. Recognizing this fact and the importance of a strong public health system to protect and promote the health of all Wisconsinites, the Governor’s budget makes Wisconsin’s largest GPR public health investment to date.

Improve maternal and infant health

Families in Wisconsin have been perpetually impacted by severe racial and ethnic disparities, which has led to adverse health and economic outcomes in our state. Wisconsin must strengthen efforts to assure the best outcomes for all mothers and babies in the state, that is why the budget proposal will:

  • Improve birth outcomes. By allowing DHS to invest in grants for maternal and infant mortality prevention, expand fetal and infant mortality review teams, fund a grief and bereavement resource for families who have lost a fetus or infant, and positions to support maternal mortality review.
  • Extend Postpartum Coverage for Pregnant Women in Medicaid. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) changed federal Medicaid law, allowing states the option to provide 12 months of continuous Medicaid eligibility following the birth of a baby by updating their state plan. Extending postpartum coverage would improve continuity of care and reduce disparities in postpartum follow-up care for chronic conditions associated with mortality rates.

Boost emergency medical services

  • Award additional Emergency Medical Services Flex Grants. EMS providers have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by greater demand for EMS services, increased costs associated with providing those services, and limitations on public funding for those services created by the economic consequences of the pandemic. This budget invests $150 million to continue the EMS Flex Grant program which provides public and private emergency services providers with funding for reasonable operating expenses, including but not limited to, supplies, equipment, training, ambulances and emergency response vehicles, and staffing.
  • Update and reform emergency medical responder certification. Gov. Evers’ budget reforms how emergency medical responders are licensed by certifying individuals as emergency medical responders if they complete a certified training program or pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians examination for emergency medical responders.
  • Remove barriers for first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder. This budget removes the barriers first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder face when seeking worker’s compensation.

Invest in public health

  • Dedicate resources to PFAS assessment and response. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of human-made chemicals used for decades in numerous products that are known to be toxic, mobile, and do not break down naturally. A number of PFAS compounds are known to pose a risk to human health, causing adverse health effects. To prevent harmful health effects caused by PFAS, this budget proposes funding to conduct education and outreach specific to PFAS to ensure Wisconsinites are aware of the dangers.
  • Reform tobacco and vapor product sale and use. Tobacco is Wisconsin’s leading cause of preventable death and costs the state more than $4.6 billion annually in health care and lost productivity expenses. In 2019, 20.6 percent of high schoolers in Wisconsin regularly used vapor products and 45.5 percent had tried a vapor product. To address the significant health harms caused by tobacco and vapor product use, this budget increases the minimum age to purchase tobacco and vapor products from 18 to 21, bringing Wisconsin in alignment with federal law. In addition, the budget prohibits the use of vapor product in indoor locations, on public, private, or charter school property, and provides funding to support the American Indian Quitline.
  • Prevent and respond to childhood lead poisoning. While lead can hurt anyone, children under the age of six are most susceptible to the effects of lead poisoning. In 2020, over 2,100 children under age six had a blood lead level that exceeds the CDC's recommended levels. The budget builds upon foundations laid by previous budgets and makes key statutory changes and critical investments to continue to lower the incidence of lead poisoning in Wisconsin. This includes expanding early intervention services provided through the Birth to 3 Program to children with a blood lead level over the CDC recommended levels.
  • Launch an electrocardiogram screening pilot program for youths participating in athletics. By providing $4,172,000 GPR in fiscal year 2024-25 for the pilot program in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties, the budget allows local health departments to help prevent cardiac-related health incidents in student-athletes, and will be critical in identifying any best practices and strategies for consideration in developing a future potential statewide expansion of the screening program.
  • Improve availability of healthy food. It is well established that eating sufficient fresh fruits and vegetables can improve health and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Less than one in four Wisconsinites consumes fruits and vegetables at least five times a day. The Double Up Food Bucks Pilot Program is an opportunity for FoodShare members to increase their overall buying power by matching federal dollars spent purchasing fruits and vegetables. Governor Evers’ budget recommends instituting this pilot program to allow FoodShare benefits to be stretched further.
  • Maintain the personal protective equipment (PPE) warehouse stockpile. The warehouse remains a critical component of the COVID-19 pandemic response and other emerging infectious diseases response and recovery efforts. Examples of PPE in the stockpile include face shields, goggles, nitrile gloves, respirators, coveralls, non-surgical face masks, and non-surgical gowns. Having an ample supply of this equipment is critical to reducing the risk of exposure to disease and ensuring the health and safety of health care responders throughout Wisconsin. This budget creates a 60-day stockpile of PPE.

Support older, vulnerable residents, limited English speakers, and their service providers

  • Enhance the Adult Protective Services (APS) System. Wisconsin’s population is aging, and incidents of exploitation and abuse are increasing. Wisconsin’s APS system requires recommitment of funding for training, needs assessments for tribal adult protective services, guardian support and elder justice training grants, and other adult protective services enhancements. The budget also provides money to counties to help administer front-line adult protective services.
  • Healthy aging through evidence-based prevention programs. There are currently 1.06 million adults over 65 years old in Wisconsin. By 2040, that number is expected to grow by almost 50 percent. Investing in interventions that promote older adults’ health and support their ability to remain in their homes and communities is central to help limit cost growth in long-term care programs and to promote quality of life for individuals as they age. Governor Evers’ budget invests in proven programs across Wisconsin to improve health, reduce costs, and prevent or delay disease among older adults.
  • Translate DHS website and forms into multiple languages. DHS supports accessibility for marginalized communities in Wisconsin by translating a number of its digital and print materials into languages spoken throughout the state including Spanish, Hmong, Somali, among others. Translating the website into multiple languages would improve access to information for non-English speakers. The budget provides funding to translate the DHS website and forms into multiple languages.
  • Serve all eligible children in the Medicaid Children’s Long Term Support Program. Gov. Evers’ budget proposal guarantees all eligible children with disabilities who have long-term care needs can access care in their communities and prevent children being put on a wait list for critical services.
Last revised March 2, 2023