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Tobacco money not targeted for Wellmobile

March 06, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - If Western Maryland gets a health clinic on wheels, it probably won't be funded through the cigarette restitution fund.

The Maryland General Assembly is in the midst of a battle over how to spend the first $100 million from the state's tobacco lawsuit settlement.

Del. John Donoghue, D-Washington, suggested $400,000 be used for a Wellmobile to deliver health care to rural areas of Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties.

"We have a very rural community, many of which see very little of the health care that you and I enjoy," Donoghue told the House Environmental Matters Committee Thursday.

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State budget officials said they don't want to use the settlement for the Wellmobile program because Gov. Parris Glendening has outlined a plan to spend the money to fight cancer and discourage smoking.

The Maryland State Medical Society also opposes the use of tobacco funds, although it supports the Wellmobile idea.

The committee heard testimony Thursday on Donoghue's proposal as well as on a larger proposal to fund a statewide Wellmobile program.

The University of Maryland School of Nursing already operates two Wellmobiles that serve Prince George's, Montgomery, Dorchester, Worchester and Baltimore counties.

Del. Marilyn Goldwater, D-Montgomery, has requested that the state spend $2.2 million next year on the program, which is now paid for by private grants.

The state money would allow the School of Nursing to buy five new Wellmobile vans.

If the larger Wellmobile plan is approved by the committee, Donoghue's proposal might be added, said Committee Chairman Ronald Guns, D-Eastern Shore.

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