Commission partially approves VNA funding

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In other action

At its Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 3-0, signing a Federal Aviation Administration grant application to put a two- or three-inch asphalt overlay on the Craig/Moffat County Airport parking lot. The project would total about $150,000, with the city of Craig and Moffat County responsible for 10 percent. Airport Manager Jerry Hoberg said officials likely would apply to the Colorado Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division for half of the local cost.

• Approved, 3-0, a total of $102,647.65 in contingency budget requests for the month of December, which included a $51,789 allotment to the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. The other granted requests were:

• $12,890 for the Parks and Recreation Department to fix the County Ice Arena compressors and repair a broken window.

• $8,850 to the Coroner's Office to change benefits package from employee only to employee plus one.

• $5,842 to pay for the Craig/Moffat County Airport terminal project.

• $4,841 for the Treasurer's Office to cover increased advertising costs.

• $3,079 to the Maybell Fire Department to pay for increased heating costs.

• $1,979 to the Community Safety Department to cover an increased number of calls.

• Approved, 2-0, a $600 expense to buy a full-page ad in the Yampa Valley Partners Community Indicators Report. Commissioner Audrey Danner abstained from voting because of her involvement with Yampa Valley Partners.

The Moffat County Commission partly will fund the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association's recent funding request, but budget concerns kept the commissioners from giving all that was asked.

After a workshop meeting with VNA officials Monday, the commission unanimously approved $51,789, intended specifically to help fund the Northwest Colorado Community Health Center. The VNA has run the Health Center, which offers primary care to the under- and uninsured, since its inception this fall.

The commission denied a $21,391 request for homecare operations and a $57,855 request for "public health and family planning." The latter primarily deals with pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Commissioner Audrey Danner said VNA officials highlighted Health Center costs as the most important of the three needs.

The determination to not fund all of the VNA's request should not hurt the agency too much, VNA Director of Operations Cole White said. He added the VNA will not cut services or sell any assets in 2009 because of Tuesday's decision, but will make up the difference out of its cash reserves.

Although the approved funding fell short, Danner stressed that the VNA's request - and its future - are not light matters.

"We are talking about people," she said. "We are talking about very needed services."

At the Monday meeting, White said the Health Center has seen about 200 new patients each month on average.

His superior, VNA Chief Executive Officer Sue Birch, said that STDs are "extraordinarily" prevalent in the area and that unplanned pregnancies also are concerning.

Commissioner Tom Mathers agreed with Danner that VNA services are important, but wondered at one point if the money will run out.

The federal government mandates the VNA provide some of the programs brought to the commission for funding, such as family planning. Mathers said that however beneficial those programs may be, at some point they won't be affordable.

In addition to taking on more patients and expanding services, White said the VNA expects to hire a new doctor and new nurse practitioner for the Health Center.

VNA officials expect the Health Center to be self-sufficient in about three years. In the meantime, it and other VNA programs primarily will be funded through multiyear grants, White said.

Hopefully, he added, the VNA can take on more insured patients to help offset the losses from treating uninsured patients.

Currently, 85 percent of VNA patients fall below the federal poverty guideline, which is equal to $10,400 annual income for a single person. As of December, about 20 percent of patients have Medicaid insurance.

Officials expect that number to increase. The Health Center is open to all residents, no matter what insurance they carry, White said. With the declining number of family doctors in Moffat County, there could be more residents seeking a place for treatment.

If the Health Center could get to the point that about 50 percent of its patients have some form of insurance, that would go a long way toward making the facility self-sufficient, White said.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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