More depressing news in the New Year. Seattle and King County Public Health just announced that crucial services for mothers and babies will be slashed March 1 because of the state budget crisis which has reduced Medicaid-funded services.

King County Public Health spokesperson James Apa said that 123 staff members were sent pink slips today because funding for the county's Maternity Support Services (MSS)—which serves low-income pregnant mothers and their children—has been cut by half. Those getting laid off include nurses, social workers, dentists, dental assistants, and education specialists.

MSS supports 30,000 patients in King County, so a 50 percent cut is pretty dire. King County Executive Dow Constantine warned in a statement that these cuts could result in the loss of federal funding. "This is a cost-saving and life-saving service, so it makes no sense to cut it," Apa said, explaining that MSS provides critical support to at-risk mothers by reducing low birth weights, which often results in expensive hospital stays.

Additionally if the Legislature doesn't reverse reductions in reimbursements for Medicaid services over the next few weeks, more lay-offs will occur and over 100,000 patients will lose access to important healthcare services. "These cuts will be very very deep," Apa said. "It will close down clinics and take away services such as dental and family planning."

King County Publc Health has made significant cuts in previous years. In 2009-2011, the agency cut 344 staff positions and lost $32.9 million. The MSS cut along with the proposed reduction in Medicaid reimbursement will take away more than $23 million from Public Health this year.