Written by ALEX ASPACHER Sentinel Staff Writer
Friday, 15 November 2013 11:59
A grant to expand services of the Wood County Community Health and Wellness Center could turn out to be a continuing source of funding.
The grant announced last week will award $787,500 to the center for a 15-month period beginning in 2014, with about $650,000 to follow in 2015. The funds, a awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services as a result of the Affordable Care Act, are meant to provide more services to more under-insured people in Wood County.
Cathy Corcella, a consultant and grant writer contracted by the health district, gave an update on the grant at Thursday's meeting of the Wood County Board of Health.
If the grant is used to successfully increase patients and services at the health center, it could turn into a "long-term, stable source of funding," she said. After two years, other local organizations that could serve the same population are eligible to apply for the grant, but "in reality that almost never happens," Corcella said.
"I personally don't know of any instance where it's ever happened," she added. "The organizations that get this grant hold it forever. There are organizations that have had this grant for 40 years.
"It's really a tremendous opportunity to do long-term change in your community."
While dollar amounts could be adjusted in the future, Ben Batey, director of nursing for the health district and CEO of the health center, expressed optimism that the grant will continue to serve Wood County for years to come. Health center support has historically been popular with both Republicans and Democrats, with the two largest funding increases for those organizations coming from presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, he said.
"As long as we continue to meet our requirements, we should be able to maintain it for as long as we can see into the future."
Batey said last week the money would be used to hire staff in several departments, as a surge in clients newly-eligible for Medicaid is expected to begin soon under the ACA.
Health Commissioner Pam Butler elaborated during Thursday's meeting, saying remodeling and restructuring of health district space will occur, with additional potential for a building expansion.
There will be four new exam rooms converted from office space, and the district will work with a design firm to review the best ways to reorganize. Butler said a new stand-alone board room could be constructed at the back of the current building. That way, the current board room could be made into office or clinic space, while the new structure could be made available as a meeting room to other county organizations, she said.
That building would, however, need to be paid for with health district funds rather than grant money, Batey said. The grant is intended for operations rather than facilities, but it allows for up to $100,000 in renovations to health center space in the first year.
Batey said he plans to meet to discuss a building option with county commissioners, whom he said were supportive of the grant application. Wood County was one of 11 Ohio organizations to receive money under the program, with 236 recipients nationwide.
The health center operates out of the health district offices at 1840 East Gypsy Lane Road.
In other business, the board heard of several changes that will significantly alter the health district. Two long-time employees announced their retirement, and several positions will be redefined within the administration.
Peggy Naus, a nursing employee since 1995, will retire Nov. 30. Sue Christiansen, senior grants and accounting manager, has been with the health district since 1977, and will retire at the end of March.
The board opted to post and fill positions for a grants manager and a fiscal officer/administrator. Previous administrator Bill Ault was also responsible for human resources and management, but the new position will primarily handle financial matters. Human resources was rolled into the duties of Julie Kauffman, who was awarded a 4-percent raise for the additional responsibilities.
The board praised Naus and Christiansen for their lengthy service, and lauded Christiansen for providing advance notice of her retirement. Several board members noted that it will be important to fill the restructured positions quickly to get new employees up to speed. Christiansen has taken additional accounting duties since Ault was fired in September amidst allegations of improper behavior by his subordinates.
Several policies listed on Thursday's agenda were tabled after board members said they were not able to review them in advance. The policies centered on ethics, standard of conduct, family medical leave and governance of the board.
Separately, the board approved a $1,500 with Poggemeyer Design Group for an accessibility audit of the health district's compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.