For the second time in three weeks, the Whitley County Board of Health spent more than two hours in executive session Monday night to discuss “personnel matters,” but took no formal action.
Board of Health Chairman Dr. David Williams said that he couldn’t say what the personnel matter pertained to, and he declined to say if the executive session pertained to the one at the board’s March 2 special meeting.
During the March 2 special meeting, the board heard from 10 health department employees at the start of the meeting, who spoke out in support of Public Health Director Martha Steele, who took over the job two years ago.
The board then met in executive session for three and one-half hours before announcing that no formal action had been taken. After that meeting, Williams said that the board “took no action” regarding Steele’s resignation, and she would remain the public health director for the foreseeable future.
Board member Roddy Harrison made a motion during Monday’s regular monthly meeting about 8:44 p.m. to go into executive session to discuss personnel matters.
The board returned to regular session about 11:10 p.m., and Williams announced that no action had been taken during executive session. The board then adjourned the meeting.
The board started its meeting Monday with a 50-minute financial report from financial consultant Ken Fisor, who works with a number of health departments across the state.
Fisor noted that the Whitley County Health Department has 42 cost centers, or programs that have to operate independently. Much of the funding for these individual cost centers is specific to the program, and can only be used for that purpose.
Fisor said that the state recommends keeping at least two months worth of operating expenses in unrestricted funds, which can be used for anything, and that the board can have up to $2,057,000 in unrestricted funds.
The Whitley County Health Department currently has about $1,760,000 in unrestricted funds.
Fisor specifically spoke about a few programs, including the Health Access Nurturing and Development Services (HANDS) program, which has three components, that was about $121,000 in the red at the end of December.
The HANDS program is voluntary home visitation program for first time parents to provide counseling and education.
It isn’t mandated by the state but it is highly encouraged by the state and is considered a “core” program, Fisor said. The federal government has done studies indicating it is worthwhile program, he added.
Steele noted that the financial situation has improved since the end of last calendar year for the program.
Fisor said that fees are coming in better for the program, and the health department has made some staffing adjustments moving some people with higher pay rates to other programs.
“They get reimbursed at the same rate,” he noted.
The state is also discussing possibly increasing funding for the program, Fisor said.
Steele said that the HANDS program should be out of the red by the end of the fiscal year even if additional monies from the state aren’t forthcoming.
Fisor said that some health departments are now using contract employees to staff the HANDS program in order to reduce costs. Contract employees don’t receive fringe benefits, which reduces personnel costs for the program by about 60 percent.
Steele said that the health department may look to staff the HANDS program with contract workers in the future.
Williams noted that he thinks the program is well worth the money, even it the health department has to subsidize it from other areas.
“To not have people being served would be worse than losing money,” Williams added.
In addition, the home health program was $258,000 in the hole at the end of December but at the end of February, it had a $131,000 surplus, which is a $390,000 turn around.
“By far, the biggest change,” Fisor said. “That is a huge turnaround in that program.”
Fisor is projecting that the health department will improve it reserve fund by about $272,000 this fiscal year, which is an improvement over some earlier figures.
In other business, the board:
• Discussed the status of the needle exchange program, which has given out 3,804 clean needles so far and gotten 2,125 used needles in return.
Participants are not required to bring in old needles during their initial visit, but must do so during all other visits in order to receive clean needles.
Williamsburg police have recently expressed some concerns about the program, and Steele said that the health department plans to meet with police to try and address those concerns.
Harrison, who also serves a Williamsburg mayor, noted that one of the ideas behind the program is to get needles out of the parks and places like that, and that there have been about 1,600 more needles given out than brought into the program.
Harrison said the concern by police is also in part that participants will get 30 clean needles, use 20 of those, and then sell the other 10 in order to get money to buy additional drugs.
Harrison invited the board of health to attend the May Williamsburg City Council program when the council will get another update from Steele on the needle exchange program.
• Discussed the need to replace Dr. Keith Gibson, a dentist, who resigned from the board after he was elected to the Corbin Independent Schools Board of Education.
Williams noted that according to statute, the board needs to at least attempt to find another dentist to serve on the board.
Officials said that a couple of dentists in Corbin have been approached about the position.
• Announced that the board of health’s next regularly scheduled meeting is on June 19.