Tobacco money boosts health care
OMAHA - Andrea and Mike Dickey of Lincoln credit biomedical research with allowing their 2 1/2-year-old daughter to live a normal life.
Morgan Dickey was born deaf, but she has been able to hear for almost a year thanks to cochlear implants.
"It was really special when she started saying Mommy and Daddy," Andrea Dickey said.
The Dickeys joined state officials Thursday in commending the Legislature's decision to spend the state's $50 million annual share of a multistate tobacco settlement on health programs.
That includes $10 million next year for biomedical research at the University of Nebraska, Creighton University and Boys Town.
At a celebration Thursday at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Gov. Mike Johanns said generations of Nebraskans could benefit from the bill.
"This legislation, in my judgment, is of historical importance to people of Nebraska," Johanns said.
The money will be used to establish a statewide public health system and bolster health programs that have been lacking, such as mental health and minority health care.
Kurt Polzin said he and his wife depend on respite care to give them a break from caring for their child, who has multiple disabilities, but sometimes it is difficult to find care.
Respite care will receive $1 million next year from the settlement.
"Respite hours means we can date, see our friends and go on small vacations," Polzin said.
Pat Lopez, with the Public Health Association of Nebraska, said the $6 million allocated for public health programs will help improve the health of the state's population.
"Public health will serve as the bridge to other resources in the community and state," Lopez said.
Eighteen public health offices serve 24 of Nebraska's 93 counties. The amount of money allocated to qualifying public health offices will depend on their size.
The bill sets aside $2.8 million a year for minority health to be spent in counties with at least a 5 percent minority population. Those programs will focus on infant mortality, pregnancy prevention, obesity, diabetes, asthma and other common health issues among minorities.
The money is divided among a number of other areas: mental health ($18.9 million), health grants ($5 million), developmental disabilities ($3 million), emergency protective care ($1.5 million) and a mental health study ($500,000).
The state expects to receive $1.2 billion during the next 25 years from the 1998 settlement between tobacco companies and 46 states.
The four companies involved are the Philip Morris Cos., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Brown & Williamson Tobacco and Lorillard Tobacco.