Black Lung clinics bracing for huge budget cuts - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Black Lung clinics bracing for huge budget cuts

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WEST VIRGINIA (WVVA) - Coal miners suffering from Black Lung disease may soon find it hard to get treatment. That's because of major budget cuts in West Virginia.

WVVA paid a visit to a local black lung clinic to find out what kind of impact the cuts may have on our miners.

Over half a million dollars -- that's how much funding is being cut to Black Lung clinics in the mountain state. And we’re being told that may mean cuts to staff and care.

Staff at Bluestone Health Center in Princeton are preparing for just that.

"They are concerned," said the center's CEO, Linda Hutchens. "They're not only concerned about themselves. They're concerned for the coal miners and what it's going to do to the program."

The Department of Health and Human Services has capped the grants to $900,000 per state. West Virginia received $1.4 million last year.

"I mean the poor coal miners, we've worked all our lives for this," former coal miner Danny Johnson told WVVA. He was diagnosed with Black Lung disease last year. "Now they're just going to take it away."

Johnson's wife, Debbie Johnson, is the center's Black Lung nurse and counselor. "This is people's health care. This is people's lives. Some of them, all they have to count on is us, the people that take care of them."

Care is already limited with only eight Black Lung clinics in West Virginia serving 8,500 Black Lung patients. So any reduction in funding could mean reduced access to care.

"Black lung is tough on you," said Mr. Johnson. "It's real tough on your breathing, wheezing, wintertime, humidity. It's all that hard on you."

"We treat the families as well as the coal miner," his wife said. "So they are going to lose a lot of care and treatment."

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