County Home Health Care program in transition

By Jon Tatting

Chisago County is softening the blow for clients and employees associated with the county’s declining Home Health Care program.

The county board on June 6 approved County Administrator Bruce Messelt’s request to design and manage the transition of the program, which has been experiencing significant decline over the past several years — especially by trends in service provision, an increase of available alternative service providers and changes in federal and state regulations.

In addition to seeing a nearly 50 percent decline in clients served, Messelt explained, the county was projected to spend more than $300,000 in direct levy dollars and some $500,000 in total levy dollars in 2012 to subsidize the program, Messelt said.

Due in large part to these trends, he added, most Minnesota counties have already transitioned out of managing Home Health Care services. As for Chisago County, staff studied the issue and believed the county would be out of the business by year’s end.

The transition

According to Messelt, a managed transition of Home Health Care will include:

• Client services — working with both individual clients and available service providers to determine best available care and facilitating the smoothest possible transition. If identified, certain clients and client services would remain with the county, where no other feasible services are available.

• Employee services — working with employees and their representatives, design a structured assessment and assistance program for those employees affected by the program’s transition.

Ideally, employees would be offered other county positions, available labor agreement, county or state transition assistance, county-led efforts to identify placement opportunities with other service providers, or perhaps early retirement opportunities.

Even though a non-mandated service, the county is interested in ensuring its residents are afforded home health care services. The department will continue to monitor and evaluate client services through this program transition, learn from other counties and the state what role it will continue to provide and how best to manage any remaining clients, Messelt explained.

While the county board’s action may help reduce additional projected losses of some $100,000, employee and client transition costs are undetermined at this time. Long-term, however, financial implications are anticipated to be positive since future levy dollars will not be needed to support this non-mandated program, he added.

Radio upgrade, Taylors Falls

With regard to the 800 MHz radio system upgrade, commissioners authorized an amendment to the county’s policy on ARMER cost recovery and subscriber fees and approved the subscriber agreement with the city of Taylors Falls.

At issue, Taylors Falls is buying ARMER-compatible radios with help from federal and state grant funds. The county and city drafted a proposed subscriber agreement, allowing the city to use its radios on the county ARMER system.

Regular use of Taylors Falls to county-provided radios is anticipated in the future.

As a result, a reduced annual subscriber fee has been calculated, enabling the city to fully participate in system-wide costs but not radio-specific costs — until the city employs the radios provided by the county.

The county board also approved the 2012 proposed service agreement with the Chisago County Soil and Water Conservation District.

In other news, the board:

• Approved, by resolution, the Minnesota Workforce Center System Joint Powers Agreement under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and the Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services and Joint Powers Board Partnership Agreement.

• Approved 3.2 liquor license renewals for the following local establishments: Rush Lake Resort and Campgrounds; Stacy Lions Club in connection with Lent Town Hall; Almelund Lions Club in connection with Almelund Threshing Co., Almelund ball fields and Shafer Town Hall; Stacy-Lent Tesoro; and Sno Barons Snowmobile Club for its Hay Days event.

• Approved a one year extension to the county’s contract with MnDOT, which is pursuing federal aid as fiscal agent for the St. Croix Scenic Byway project. So instead of five years, the contract will remain in effect for six years to allow the project to be completed as originally proposed.

• Approved a service contract with metro-based Braun Intertec Corporation to determine repairs following water leakage on the Exterior Insulation Finish System at the government center.

• Approved a service contract with Coverall of the Twin Cities, Inc., for cleaning services at the Emergency Communications Center.

• Accepted a payment of $2,496 for undelivered services and termination of a 2010-11 service contract with Honeywell.

• Approved a contract with East Central Energy to connect solar photovoltaic electric panels to provide the electric needs at Dennis Frandsen Park. The county previously received a Legacy grant from the Minnesota DNR for the project.

• Awarded the contract for the Kost Dam Bridge Replacement project to low bidder Meyer Contracting of Maple Grove for $923,697, which is about $186,411 over the engineer’s estimate for the total project. Board members also approved the cooperative agreement with Sunrise Township.

• Agreed to hire a corrections officer, social worker, temporary seasonal worker in the building maintenance department and a Public Health educator/program planner.

• Approved incumbent David Boniface, from Wyoming, to continue representing District 4 on the HRA-EDA Board.

• Approved a Veteran-Owned and Veteran-Aiding Small Business Contracting policy to address disproportionate unemployment rates of qualified U.S. service veterans.

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