Trish Bennett, Editor
CIRCLEVILLE – The Pickaway County Health Department will ask for a funding increase in March to help cover the cost of an accreditation requirement mandated by the state.
Dr. Vernon Bolender, county health commissioner, made the announcement during a presentation to city council on Tuesday as a “heads-up” the request would be coming to the District Advisory Council in March.
If approved, the city would be footing the bill for half of the additional $47,500 requested through the terms of its contract with the DAC.
Bolender said state law now requires all public health departments be accredited by 2020, a complicated process that requires an employee solely dedicated to that purpose. The state, however, does not provide funding for that expense, and the department cannot cover it with its current funding that comes from the DAC, along with grants and service fees.
Bolender said the DAC declined the request for additional funding last year, leading to the resignation of five employees. Those positions have since been filled, for a total of 14 employees at the Pickaway County Health Department.
The General Health District Advisory Council is a requirement of the Ohio Revised Code and consists of a representative from the board of county commissioners and each of the townships and municipalities in Pickaway County to ensure the county is covered by public health-related services.
The DAC currently provides $362,827 in annual funding to the Pickaway County Health Department, with half of that amount ($181,413.90) paid by the City of Circleville. The remaining half is funded jointly by the townships and villages, with their contributions based on property values for those areas.
The terms of the DAC contract have long been a point of contention for the city, which has only one vote on the DAC but is required to provide half the annual funding for the county health department.
In July of 2011, the city also took a substantial hit when it had to cover half of a $250,000 bailout of the health department through the DAC.
Bolender said the formula is calculated by the DAC, not the health department, and is based upon where the majority of the department’s services are provided. The services, including food inspections, environmental and nuisance complaints and clinical health services, are traditionally about 50 percent inside the city limits and 50 percent throughout the remainder of the county.
Though city officials are not pleased with the arrangement, they admit there are few other options to maintain public health services for city residents. The city could opt out of the DAC and form its own health department, or it could contract with another county or agency, but it is unlikely it could do either for less than it spends now through the DAC.
David M. Crawford, council president, told Bolender council appreciated the advance notice on the funding request, and that the city has no complaints about the quality of services provided.
“I’m glad we’re talking about finances and not the level of care,” Crawford said. “Pickaway County should be proud of the services we receive through our local health department.”
If the DAC approves the additional funding, Bolender said the increase would take effect in 2017 and would not affect the current year’s budget.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal