Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
The County Board of Health is considering stopping participation in the local health consortium originally created through an effort started by the Hill County Health Department, the county director of nursing said today. Riki Handstede said an issue on the draft agenda for the Board of Health’s meeting Wednesday, scheduled for 12:30 p.m. in Conference Room 4 on the fourth floor of Northern Montana Hospital, will be whether the Hill County Health Department should continue to participate in the Hill County Health Consortium. Handstede said she has no opinion on the issue at this time, and is waiting to see what the consensus of the board is after the meeting. Cindy Smith, director of the Bullhook Community Health Center, spearheaded the creation of the consortium in 2003 while she was the director of nursing for Hill County. She said the Health Department leaving the consortium would be detrimental. “It’s important to have the Health Department there,” Smith said Monday. “It’s community health and the community needs are addressed.” Mike Wendland, chair of the Hill County Commission, said he will research the issue and discuss it at the meeting tomorrow. He declined to comment this morning. The consortium was created to assess gaps in health care in the community and to find ways to fill those gaps. One of its First activities led to the creation of the Bullhook Clinic, now the Bullhook Community Health Center, which provides medical care including offering services on a sliding scale of reduced payments for low-income patients. The health center, originally created as part of the Health Department, left the management of the county government to become a private nonprofit organization last summer, which increased its chances to receive grant funding. It also left the Health Department office and reopened in a building east of Northern Montana Hospital. Smith said the purpose of the consortium fits in with the purpose of the Health Department, including its 10 Essential Services listed by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1995. “One of 10 Essential Services is to determine what health needs are,” she said. That’s why I started (the consortium) way back when.” While the primary force behind the creation of the consortium was to assess community needs in preparation for creating the community health center, Smith said it addressaes many other issues. The consortium is split into subcommittees, including the Early Childhood Investment Team; the Kids Management Authority, which assesses needs in children’s mental health; the Local Advisory Council, which assesses needs in adult mental health; the Environmental Health subcommittee; the Primary Care subcommittee; the Dental subcommittee; the Vision subcommittee; and the Hearing subcommittee. “It’s for entities in the county and other counties around us to get together and find out what is working well and assess what are some gaps,” she said. “ Everybody is bringing everything together. By talking we learn what everybody is doing.” One key is to make sure different groups and governmental entities are not duplicating efforts and funding, she added. If some group or agency is already bringing in funding for a project, “we don’t need to bring money in to compete,” Smith said. Some successes the consortium has already seen, aside from the Bullhook Community Health Center include the early childhood subcommittee receiving grants to do radon testing in homes, to test wells for water quality and to do other environmental testing, she said. Another was to find funding for the Kids Management Authority, which is now funded and incorporated into the Health Department, and the creation of the Local Advisory Council, which is prepared to apply for funding and start operating programs if such funding becomes available, Smith said. Having all of the entities including the Health Department involved also increases the chance to receive funding for different efforts, Smith said. National agencies and organizations are starting to look closely at how well different entities in a community work together in deciding what to fund, she said.