Officials express concern in changes to Black Lung Clinic program


April 8, 2014

CHARLESTON — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding a recent change in which the DHHS Administration Black Lung Clinic program now limits awards to $900,000 per grantee.

This funding cap represents a 44 percent reduction in funding for black lung clinics in West Virginia.

“The recent change within the structure of the federal Black Lung Clinic program will jeopardize our ability to provide nearly 8,500 West Virginians suffering from Black Lung disease with the critical care and services they need,” Tomblin said. “I am asking Secretary Sebelius to reconsider and request removal of the capped restrictions for grant applications or allow for supplemental request to maintain the standards of care and service in our black lung clinics. I will also be reaching out to our congressional delegation for support to ensure future funding for these vital services.”

Last year, 14 states received funding. Thirteen states received less than $900,000 and West Virginia was awarded $1.4 million.

In addition, nearly 8,500 West Virginians suffering from Black Lung disease were provided critical services under this grant at eight clinics across the state, totaling more than 52,000 documented visits.

The West Virginia Bureau for Public Health has been a recipient of the Black Lung Clinic Grant program since 1979 and has provided oversight and technical assistance for Black Lung clinics statewide.

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) issued the following statement on black lung clinic funding:

“I appreciate Governor Tomblin’s letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) about the need for Federal funding for our State’s black lung clinics. Immediately upon learning many weeks ago that the State was facing a funding challenge, I began working with Senators Rockefeller and Manchin to address the problem. We contacted HHS officials several times in opposition to this policy change and were successful in securing additional time for the State to submit its applications for funding. I have been in regular communication with agency officials — at both the State and Federal levels — and representatives of our State’s black lung clinics, with whom I met personally. I have voiced my strong support to HHS officials in behalf of the State’s applications for funding. I fully intend to continue working with our Governor and our Senators as we press for every possible dollar of funding to assist our State’s coal miners suffering from black lung disease.”