POMEROY — The Meigs County Health Department recently made the decision to not apply for the Fiscal Year 2017 five-year Competitive Cycle Reproductive Health and Wellness Program, also known as Family Planning, through the Ohio Department of Health.
Leanne Cunningham, director of Nursing at the Meigs County Health Department, also serves as the reproductive health and wellness grant director. She said that the fiscal year 2016 for the program runs through March 31 of this year, with no new patients being taken at this time.
The program itself is a Title X-funded program, which means it is a program that is offered on a sliding fee scale, or reduced cost. The current program offers pre-pregnancy planning, cervical cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and confidential services for teens, women and men. The grant provides two clinics a month at the Meigs County Health Department, as there is not a full-time doctor on-site, Cunningham said.
According to an email sent by Cunningham on Jan. 28, the health department is not applying for the grant because the new grant requirements are not realistic for the department. These requirements include unfunded mandates within the grant, such as the procurement of electronic medical records, which have a minimum cost of $13,000.
Other requirements include a considerable time increase that must be spent on the grant, including additional training and time to serve the actual patients. However, none of these requirements have additional funding, Cunningham said.
Another reason for the decision to not apply is the lack of new patients and the lack of patients who show up to appointments. Cunningham said that for the 2016 fiscal year, the department hoped to have 300 new patients, but only received 47 . And of those new patients for the 2016 fiscal year, the department only saw a 61 percent show rate of patients, or patients who actually show up to their scheduled appointments.
“Our overall program numbers are down, and even if we reach people to confirm their appointments, they don’t show come the appointment time,” Cunningham said. “We, therefore, are paying a provider to be on-site for (the) clinic when very few show up. I have researched the numbers of people reached by the grant, and the majority do have Medicaid, which means they can seek this type of care through other providers.”
Cunningham said the department has advertised for these services with a billboard currently located at the intersection of Highland Road and State Route 7 in Pomeroy, and that they also make reminder calls regarding appointments.
Another reason for the decision to not re-apply is that as of Jan. 1, 2016, all new grants that start from that day onward are 100 percent reimbursable, which means the department must spend the money on whatever they need before being reimbursed by the state health department. According to Cunningham, this reimbursable grant change is a federal-level decision, but is tough on the smaller health departments in Ohio and across the country.
“We have sought input about whether or not to continue this grant both internally through many hours of conversation and debate, and externally through the Meigs County Consortium and the Get Healthy Meigs! Committee, so this decision has not been made lightly,” Cunningham said. “We are exploring other ways to best serve the public and the needs of Meigs County in the realm of public health.”
Some of the potential other ways to serve the public include a possible expansion of nursing services and STD testing services. Cunningham also recommended that those who still need reproductive services can visit the Planned Parenthood location in Athens County or the Gallia County Health Department, who Cunningham said are re-applying for the RHWP Grant. Those needing cervical or breast cancer screenings may also look into the mobile labs that come through Meigs County certain times of the year.
Cunningham said the Ohio Health Department is aware that Meigs is not re-applying, but wants to get the word out to as many residents as possible as well.
“We wanted to let all of you know, firsthand and as soon as possible, of our decision,” she said. “We welcome any feedback for services that you feel are needed in Meigs County and also welcome the prospect of any collaborative effort with each of you or your agency that will benefit our community.”
To leave feedback for services, call the Meigs County Health Department at 740-992-6626 or email [email protected]
Reach Lindsay Kriz at 740-992-2155 EXT. 2555.