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Family planning efforts at center of increased budget request from Public Health
Jun 3, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer
Much of the department's annual funding comes from outside grants, not county appropriations.
Increased personnel costs and support for the Emergency Preparedness and Family Planning programs led the Fremont County Public Health department to request about $50,000 more this year from the general fund.
On May 20, Public Health nursing supervisor Julie Twist presented a budget request for $421,000 from the general fund to the Fremont County Commission.
Her department operates on four other budgets that are mostly funded from outside grants.
In an interview, Twist said the budget was not a finalized proposal, and she plans to discuss her request with the county board again.
Her department is not asking for salary raises, but costs related to staff will increase, Julie Twist said. Filling positions that were vacant last year and employees changing their insurance plans led to about $34,000 more in personnel expenses.
"I'm not asking for raises for county nurses or support staff, because the state nurses didn't get raises," Twist said.
Public Health has six state nurses whose salaries are paid 65 percent by the state and 35 percent by the county. Costs for county nurses and support staff are borne totally by the county along with grant funds.
New in this year's request from the general fund was $25,000 to supplement the Family Planning Program budget and $5,000 for the Emergency Preparedness program.
Twist said she would hope not to use the money but wanted to have it budgeted as a safety net.
Starting in January 2012, Public Health took over a federal grant to provide subsidized family planning services in the county.
Through the first year and the beginning of 2013, grants, donations and user fees supported the program.
In April, the county commission approved contributing $5,300 to the program general fund if funding fell short by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
Family Planning did not receive money from that fund previously.
Some commissioners balked at the $25,000 request.
"I know you want to expand services, but that expands your expense without associated revenue," commission chairman Doug Thompson said at the May 20 meeting. "That might be something (where) you have to pull your horns in a little bit."
Commissioner Travis Becker said he would not support the request for general fund money for Family Planning.
"I said I'd give it one year to see if it could support itself," he said in an interview. "It's shown it cannot support itself in my opinion."
Public Health has seen a rise in demand for family planning services, Twist said in an interview.
She pointed to recent data tracking clients who come to the county program for six specific services.
The number of clients for those services went from 64 in January to 108 in April, Twist said.
She also said her program expanded clinic days in Lander from twice a month to once a week.
"I can't believe how much it's picking up over here (in Lander)," Twist said.
A federal grant funds the Emergency Preparedness program, which helps the county become ready for a public health emergency, like an infectious disease or natural disaster.
Twist asked for help from the general fund for the program because money at the national level for it was cut.
Public Health's request from the general fund also showed a nearly $9,000 cut in office and operating supplies.