A comprehensive report on comparisons of the Barry Eaton District Health Department to three counties with single health departments in counties of about the same size was presented to the Barry County Commission meeting Monday.
The purpose of the ad hoc committee was to review budgets from three comparable sized counties, review the Barry Eaton District Health Department, determine the minimum requirements for a public health department and report its findings to the board of commissioners.
The committee was insisted on by Commissioner Howard “Hoot” Gibson last October. Gibson, and others, support a Barry County Health Department, separate from Eaton County.
Commissioners Heather Wing, Jon Smelker and Dan Parker made up the committee.
The directive did not ask for a recommendation and the committee did not provide one.
The committee’s full report, which “contains a smattering of the documents we’ve all looked at,” Wing said, is available on the county website at this link:
Report from Special Ad-hoc Committee on Health Department Budget
Parker said at first, he was concerned it might not be easy to get information from other departments, but found all four departments they visited and interviewed were willing to give out information.
“They were all very open with us,” he said.
“We have a health department that is willing to work with us…its complicated, but as long as they answer questions we can work with them,” he said. In the process, he said he found there can be improvements at the health department. “I’ll be bringing it up… some things they are already working on.”
The report on the BEDHD and Ionia, Shiawassee and Tuscola county health departments , listed services mandated by the state as well as the programs provided by each county, the county’s population, budget, general fund appropriation, number of staff, the department’s fund balance, general fund cost per resident and the minimum general appropriation level set for the department in the 1990s.
Parker and Smelker said they met two former staff members who had worked in the past for the BEDHD and now work for single county health departments, and when asked for advice, both said Barry County, “should stay where they’re at.”
Commissioner David Jackson asked if the committee was comparing apples to oranges in staff, budget and programs. All of the departments provide pretty much the same services, but had some differences in programming, financial structure and initiatives, “with little tweaks for their special needs,” Wing said.
“We have much better health department services than some we looked at,” Smelker said. Wing agreed, noting the BEDHD is “one of the better health departments in the state.”
Wing outlined some obstacles to building a single health department for the county. There are many steps leading to accreditation by the state. “For us to do that on our own… it’s not an easy task...it takes a long time for accreditation for programs.” She said they have the infrastructure, that’s not a problem, its hiring staff and the right equipment, manuals, applications… connections and policies, she said. The BEDHD is accredited nationally and by the state.
All health departments cooperate with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Smelker said he learned a lot he didn’t know about the district health department and is quite comfortable with working with them. “When we talked to “Collette (Scrimger, BEDHD health officer,) she told is everything we asked for…I didn’t see any wrongdoing in the budget...compared to other counties our administration is a little top heavy.”
Parker said the BDEHD was good “at orchestrating grants; this health department runs on grants.”
He thanked Administrator Michael Brown for the many hours spent helping the committee “decipher what we couldn’t.” Jackson thanked the committee for the amount of work and time they dedicated to the report.