Bi-County Health Department May Be Dissolved; Ford County Board Votes Monday
BY Jeff Bossert
For more than 30 years, Ford and Iroquois Counties have been served by the same health department. But the first vote to change that structure could come as soon as Monday night.
Board members in Iroquois County overwhelmingly backed the concept in a straw poll last week.
John Shure sits on the county board, as well as an oversight committee from both boards that’s looked at the pros and cons of the issue.
He said one problem is that each county board appoints four members to the health panel, resulting in some disagreement as to how the area should best be served.
“I can tell you how the Iroquois County Board views it, I’m sure the Ford County Board will have a different comment or a different view on it," he said. "It’s like if you go into a partnership with your brother or uncle. Sooner or later you’re going to disagree, and then you’re going to have a real donnybrook on your hands.”
Shure said immunizations and other basic services have gone well, but he says the push to change things have come down to management problems.
He said the majority of Iroquois County Board members opposed a plan that was eventually dropped to provide home health care in western Indiana, calling that the first in a series of ‘illegal or unethical’ practices that led to the resignation of former health department administrator Doug Corbett last month.
Ford County Board member Randy Berger said after operating as a joint department for 33 years it makes sense for the two to exist separately, to address more regional health concerns.
He said one example is home health care, which was recently abandoned by the Ford-Iroquois health district due to cost in such a wide area.
“I know we hated to see it go because we’ve got a lot of rural residents, especially in the northern part of the county," he said. "But the way it was, just too much of a financial burden. But maybe being two different counties, maybe Ford would figure out way to do that part of it better, and Iroquois would do something different to serve its constituents.”
Shure cited another example - the awarding of contracts for solar panels at health department offices to a firm owned by the husband of a former health department employee.
Berger also noted there’s a sense of urgency involved. Both the Ford and Iroquois county boards would have to vote to disband, and then the counties would have some time prior to the start of the fiscal year July 1st to starting up their own individual health boards.
The Ford County Board meets Monday at 7 p.m. at the county jail in Paxton. The Iroquois County board is expected to take up its vote on ending the bi-county health department by mid-November.
UPDATE: The Ford County Board Monday unanimously voted to have its attorney meet with State Health Department in order to withdraw from the joint Ford-Iroquois Health District. Berger says the meeting with Attorney Deanna Mool is required before the board can vote to withdraw from the bi-county board.