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County health now a nonprofit

After more than two years of negotiations, the county department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been successfully “spun-off” from the county into its own not-for-profit organization.

As of Feb. 1, it will be known as Curry Community Health.

“It feels great,” said Curry Community Health CEO Jan Kaplan. “An awful lot just came together real fast. It’ll feel real on February 2.”

Curry Community Health became a corporation in June 2012. The completion of the spin-off came a little sooner than anticipated as the IRS fast-tracked the organization’s nonprofit status application. Its approval was received Dec. 19.

Additionally, final negotiations regarding the four properties the county owned in conjunction with the human services department were debated. One of them, the Hammond House in Gold Beach, is in the last 16 years of a 30-year grant with the state, requiring the operators to provide mental health services for the duration of the grant – or pay back the grant funds in their entirety.

The other buildings include the MINDS Clubhouse in Gold Beach, and buildings at 517 Railroad Street and 438 Pine Street in Brookings.

The MINDS Clubhouse will continue as a social meeting place for those clients, and the office on Railroad Street will continue to offer mental health, addictions and public health services.

The house on Pine Street might be used for housing the county’s VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) intern, or for temporary housing for new county employees until they find a permanent place to live.

The county spun off the department as one of its many methods to save money during these fiscally tight times.The county is projected to be $3 million in the red when it begins its fiscal year July 1 – and has no immediate solution in sight.

Curry County and the state’s 17 other O&C counties have long been dependent on timber sales on national lands; those funds have ceased, cutting off the bulk of revenue for basic county services.

The county has in the past year spun off Animal Control to Gold Beach-based Pennies for Pooches, as well as the Home Health and Hospice department to a new nonprofit, Coastal Home Health and Hospice, July 2011. The Developmental Disabilities Services was relinquished to the state last August, which in turn contracted it with Community Living Case Management, a nonprofit in Coos and Josephine counties.

It could easily get to the point where the county only offers those services mandated by the state – and even those, in a worst-case scenario, could be handed back to the state.

“There’s not many departments left,” Kaplan said in November. “You can’t have a nonprofit sheriff’s department, you can’t privatize the county road department. Those are the major county departments left.”

The 43 employees associated with HHS will become employees of the new organization, making it one of the fifth or sixth largest employers in the county, Kaplan said. It will continue to operate public health, addictions and mental health services at its existing locations in Gold Beach, Brookings and Port Orford.

An equal number of people with Home Health and Hospice were relocated with the formation of Coastal Home Health and Hospice.

“It’s been a strategy over past couple years to preserve the services and reduce the cost of county government,” Kaplan said. “We’re saving a major company in the county, if you think about it.”

Curry Community Health will be operated under the auspices of the seven-member volunteer board that represents private and public sector leaders, many with a background in health related fields.

The goal of the nonprofit is to maintain local control over those services within the community and preserve services to more than 3,000 residents.

Kaplan said Curry Community Health will continue to provide mental health and addictions treatment services, mental health crisis services, communicable disease control, licensing and inspection for food service and lodging facilities, school-based health services, WIC, immunizations, nurse home-visit programs for mothers and children, reproductive health services and public health emergency preparedness planning.

Additionally, he said, CCH will continue to provide tobacco, addictions and gambling prevention services and continue the development of community health awareness and improvement planning through its Healthy Communities project.

“I’m very proud of our staff who, in the midst of massive change, have continued to deliver high quality services to our communities,” Kaplan said. “Their enthusiasm for launching a new organization has manifested in countless hours of hard work to make this complex transition successful.”

CCH can be reached at 541-247-3300.

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