Governor proposes using tobacco money to hire school nurses, discourage smoking
ATLANTA - Gov. Roy Barnes unveiled plans Monday to use some of the state's tobacco settlement to put nurses in every school and to discourage smoking.
The governor also wants a portion of the tobacco settlement used to reduce the long waiting list of elderly and mentally retarded who could be served through community care programs, his office said.
Putting nurses in every school was a recommendation of the Governor's Education Reform Commission, which recently reported that the dispensing of medicine to students is often left to teachers and even secretarial staff.
Barnes, who will outline his heath-spending recommendations in a budget address to the joint House and Senate today, wants to earmark $30 million from the settlement to hire 1,837 school nurses.
The state expects to receive about $4.8 billion during the next 25 years as part of the national tobacco settlement. Barnes has pledged to spend about one-third of the money on rural economic development and to put the rest into health care programs.
His plan calls for $20.8 million to be earmarked for smoking cessation, prevention and education programs.
Health care professionals and cancer support groups have lobbied for months for money to fund programs aimed at reducing the 430,000 deaths attributed annually to tobacco use.
Barnes wants to commit about $16.5 million to help unlock the waiting list on people who need community-based services for serious physical or mental disabilities.
About $2.1 million of the $16.5 million would be earmarked to help an extra 100 people who have traumatic brain injuries.