Mississippi restaurants will be inspected less often as inspectors are being told to work from home now that their offices have been closed by a financially strapped Mississippi Department of Health. Cuts in restaurant inspection are just part of the 13.6 percent cut, reducing the department’s overall budget to $63.1 million. The Mississippi Department of Health has laid off 61 people and is unable to fill 89 vacant jobs for lack of funding. It may begin losing as much as another $4 million from the federal government because the state does not have matching money required for certain funding. driver-in-air_406x250In South Mississippi, health clinics with associated offices were closed earlier in 2016 in both Biloxi and Ocean Springs. It marked the beginning of an era that has restaurant inspectors working out of their cars and residences. It means the department will be relying on its risk-based system, meaning restaurants that come through an inspection with a good score will likely not see another inspection for at least another year. Restaurants with below average scores will be required to go through re-inspection and will likely be on a twice a year regular inspection schedule. Twenty environmental health positions were eliminated in the recent cutbacks. As of now, it leaves 24 South Mississippi counties with 19 food inspectors. The fewer inspectors working without offices will likely hold up the openings of new restaurants throughout the state. Mississippi did open a new $36 million public health laboratory in January, replacing a facility that went into service in 1959. However, in scores for the National Health Security Preparedness Index, the state and the South scored well below average. The Security Preparedness Index is a measure of how ready states are to handle natural or man-made disasters that threaten human health. Health fees in Mississippi are no longer available automatically available to the department as they are deposited in the state general fund. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)