DPH to end licensing for funeral homes, embalmers, some clinics

As part of a plan to cut $20.6 million in two years, the state Department of Public Health will stop licensing funeral homes, funeral directors and embalmers, college infirmaries, and certain types of clinics, the department announced Monday.

The cuts stem from a budget gap created when state employee unions rejected a concession deal aimed at saving $1.6 billion in the current two-year budget. Unions plan to vote again this month on a new version of the agreement. If they ratify it, DPH spokesman William Gerrish said, many of the cuts would be rolled back.

While the department will stop licensing some facilities, employees who work for them would still be subject to health department regulations and enforcement, according to the department.

Other planned cuts released last month include eliminating 20 administrative staff positions, 15 health program staff positions and reducing funding for HIV prevention services, community health centers, school-based health centers, and the fetal and infant mortality review program.

In addition, a portion of the blood lead testing the department runs will be eliminated. Children without health insurance could continue to receive testing through the state health department, but those with private insurance would need to be tested through private laboratories.

It will also take longer to review applications for community drinking water wells and water supply plans, according to DPH.

But a statement from the department said the changes would not impact the safety or quality of existing public water supplies, and that inspections of day care center and group day care homes would continue to meet the legal minimum requirements for regular inspections.

“We are committed to minimizing the impact of these reductions and ensuring that core public health services continue to be available to people who need them the most,” Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen said in a statement released by the department. “These changes are unfortunate, but DPH is working to be more effective and efficient, focusing our resources on services that best serve the people of Connecticut.”

The department also expects to save money by moving information about the more than 200,000 health care professionals the department licenses into a single system.