Members of the local Health Department Board are hoping to ease any potential fears over the upcoming switch from being a member of the Lincoln Trail Health Department District (LTHDD) to an independently-run health department.
The decision to leave the district after being a member for more than three decades was not one made lightly, according to board member Terry Mudd.
“This is not a spur of the moment thing,” Mudd said, “We’ve been debating for a couple of years.”
Mudd explained that there were multiple factors contributing to the decision to keep the management and funding local. Among those were increased rates that the local department would be required to pay to the district as well as disagreements over personnel.
Despite great effort on the part of local board members to keep all health department employees on the payroll, LTHDD voted to oust one part-time and one full-time employee recently.
Mudd said of fellow board member and Grayson County Judge Executive Gary Logsdon, “He fights for his employees. He begged them, ‘let me keep these people.’”
Mudd explained that once the switch is made on July 1, the Grayson County Health Department (GCHD) will be locally-run and the board hopes to end such lay-offs.
Additionally, Mudd said, the board had concerns over an increase in the amount the local department is required to pay to the district. After 29 years of steady rates, GCDC’s expected contribution to LTHDD was just bumped up to about $250,000 per year with the expectation that this rate will continue to increase each year, Mudd said.
Despite these increasing rates, Mudd said that services provided by LTHDD are being slowly cut, including items like office supplies and mowing costs.
Beginning in July, all money will stay here locally and will also be supplemented by continued state and federal funding.
When asked if there was any concern that there would not be enough funds to cover the GCHD’s operating costs, Logsdon replied that there was not.
“Once we pull out [of the district] we will have exact figures,” Logsdon explained, adding that the current numbers are combined funding amounts for the district’s seven county health departments. “When they lump them all in with seven counties, it’s hard to tell exactly what’s ours.”
He said that exact numbers will be made public once they are made available to the board.
When asked about potential changes in services provided by the health department, GCHD representative Gigi Meredith told the Gazette in early February that no changes are expected.
Mudd echoed this, saying, “Most all services are mandated by the state.” He added that there will now be the potential for additional services to be added later.
One big and immediate change in reagards to services will be that the GCHD will again accept patients’ health insurance, which it could not do as a member of the district, Mudd said.
Mudd, Logsdon and Meredith all pointed to the success of the many other county health departments choosing to become independent as they discussed the benefits of the decision and their hopes for the future.
Breckenridge County Health Department representative Cindy Bandy said in a recent interview that BCHD made the switch from LTHDD to being independent and “we’re glad we did it.”
Bandy told The News-Gazette, “We still offer all of the same programs as when we were a part of the district, but as far as the benefits, the biggest one is just keeping your money locally in your county.”
Another big plus as far as Bandy is concerned is “The freedom to decide how you feel that money needs to be spent to give the greatest benefit to the residents. We’re not having to conform to things that may have benefited another county in the district - it’s simply what’s best for us, and that will be the same thing for Grayson County. It will be all about Grayson County.”
Lincoln Trail District Director Linda Sims said of Grayson County’s decision, “we only wish them the very best as they separate after all these years.”
Logsdon said via telephone on Friday, “sometimes change does happen, and sometimes change is better.”
An earlier press release from Logsdon’s office concerning the switch read, “We feel with our competent board and staff, we can better serve our community at a local level.”
The final decision toward the switch was made with a unanimous vote at the January 18 Fiscal Court meeting.