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Health/Human Services office status may change sooner than later

 GOLD BEACH – Curry County officials still plan to spin off the Health and Human Services Department into a non-profit, stand-along entity – and likely sooner than later.

Officials sent a letter last week to the Secretary of State’s office saying they have  set a target date of July 1, 2013, but that does not mean they will delay that plan for a year, County Commissioner David Itzen said Tuesday.

“We anticipate it will be earlier than that,” Itzen said.

 

Commissioners had earlier planned to move public health and mental health to another public or private entity by July 1, 2012, a year after they spun off Home Health and Hospice to a nonprofit, stand-alone agency. But they recently said it would not be completed by that time.

Last week, commissioners wrote Audit Manager Alan J. Bell of the Secretary of State’s office that they have scraped up enough money to run the county for one year using road funds, the vehicle replacement fund and working capital.

State auditors had written Curry County and seven other counties, enclosing a draft report on financial conditions of the counties. They asked for the county’s feedback on the report.

In that letter, commissioners wrote of the new deadline, pushing back the date for a year.

“Budget-wise, that’s as long as we thought we could stretch it,” Itzen said. “We anticipate it will be earlier than that. We used the most conservative language to protect ourselves.”

Commissioners four weeks ago approved a resolution to allow the county Health and Human Services Department to become a nonprofit stand-alone private entity to contract with the county in case another group can not be found to take over those functions.

Itzen said that spinning off Home Health and Hospice a year ago was a wise move.

“They were pretty well run,” he said. 

Itzen said the county learned from that move that it was not a quick and easy matter.

“They expected us to give them the cars, give them the money, but it was not that simple. It was complex,” Itzen said.

“We’re still looking at spinning off public health and mental health. They could go together or could go separately,” he said.

He said they could still go to one of several entities that are willing to take them or they could go nonprofit themselves, much as Home Health and Hospice did.

“It’s a big process that we would like to see. We’re comfortable we will be successful,” Itzen said. “When? We’re not sure. We hope to make it happen as soon as possible.”

He said Home Health and Hospice is now operating as well or better than when it was part of the county.

“We want to have a minimum impact on services, employees and the county,” Itzen said.

The commissioners in February approved a resolution to authorize Health and Human Services Director Jan Kaplan to begin the process to transition the operation of Public Health from the County to another public or private entity.

And it authorized Interim Mental Health Director Becky Martin, in coordination with Kaplan, to begin the process of  transitioning Human Services to one or more public or private entities.

The May 1 action would allow the departments to spin off from the county and be a nonprofit themselves to contract with the county for those services.

Officials said that could be necessary if no other nonprofit could be found to take over those services.

“It doesn’t commit us, but it gives us an option,” Kaplan told the commissioners.

That resolution authorizes the Health and Human Services Department to create a 501c3 entity named Curry Community Health.

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