Routt, Moffat officials discuss health care, youth services at joint meeting
As state funding for public health services dwindles, commissioners from Moffat and Routt counties agreed to work together to improve regional health care options.
At a joint meeting of the two government bodies Tuesday in Steamboat Springs, county commissioners heard from health care providers about important issues such as funding for Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) programs and care for indigent residents.
The Memorial Hospital (TMH) in Craig has received a waiver from the state to allow it to accept only indigent elective care from certain zip codes, according to TMH Administrator Randy Phelps.
“From Routt County, only Hayden residents will be accepted. If Yampa Valley Medical Center doesn’t want them, they’ll have to go to Denver,” Phelps said. He explained that, as a public hospital funded by Moffat County, he doesn’t feel it’s good business to accept elective indigent patients.
“A patient from Oak Creek, for example, needed gall bladder surgery. We felt to take a 70-cent hit on the dollar wasn’t a smart business move,” Phelps said.
Routt County Commissioner Ben Beall said a solution needs to be worked out.
“I hate to think of people from Routt County having to go out of the valley for elective care,” Beall said.
In other health care issues discussed at the joint meeting, VNA Executive Director Sue Birch alerted commissioners to the fact that, if funding cuts continue, the VNA will have to phase out programs such as wellness shots.
“And as for Planned Parenthood, if that can’t continue, who will look after these people?” she asked.
Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson said, instead of cutting funding, the state should be trying to emulate in other communities what Birch has accomplished with the local VNA.
Commissioners from both counties agreed with a suggestion from Phelps to create a valleywide health care planning council to address regional health care issues. The commissioners asked Phelps to update them on the progress of the council early next year.
In other intergovernmental topics, the commissioners discussed the future of the Moffat County Youth Care Center in Craig, which provides regional foster care for troubled children.
Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos told the group the center director, Richard Henderson, resigned Tuesday and the center has not housed enough youth to break even with operating expenses.
Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said two children placed at the center needed more care than the staff could provide and had to be placed somewhere else.
“I think if the Moffat County facility is going to continue, it will have to change,” Stahoviak said.
Moffat County Commissioner Joe Janosec said they now have that opportunity to change.
“It’s a great facility with great potential, but it’s a tremendous drain on the county,” Janosec said.
Commissioners also agreed to urge businesses in each county to write comments supporting a local calling area between Craig and Steamboat Springs. They agreed the comments should be sent to Routt County to gather a package to send to the Public Utilities Commission before the end of November.
Both Routt and Moffat counties agreed to each contribute $20,000 to Yampa Valley Partners, the organization known regionally for its work on the Community Indicators project as well as telecommunications planning.