County favors health clinic over Vision 20/20 plan
Davis upset over losing funding for program she piloted last year
A few weeks ago, the Charles County Board of Commissioners request- ed more information on the county’s Vision 20/20 program, originally established by the county as a pilot program to improve the living situation of applicants who applied for assistance, said Eileen
Minnick, director of the Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism.
But now the county seems to be moving away from the program in or- der to start a new one. Charles County Commis- sioners’ President Peter Murphy (D) proposed a resolution during Tues- day’s commissioner meet- ing that will establish a family medical center in Western Charles County run by the Department of Health and Health Part- ners, Inc.
The new funding would be considered “a med- ical home” for citizens not only in the western portion, but for citizens throughout Charles County.
But to do this without increasing the tax bur- den on citizens, Murphy said, the county will need to use funding originally intended to hire a social worker for Vision 20/20 and take $51,600 to give to the Health Partners or- ganization to provide 24hour service in the west- ern facility.
“I think this is a com- promise,” Murphy said. The commissioners voted 4-1, with Commissioners’ Vice President Debra Da- vis (D) the lone vote of dissent.
The way things cur- rently stand with Vision 20/20, Murphy said, the program is funded through June 2017. The county will continue to support the part-time employee that has been working in the program up until this point.
Murphy’s resolution would take the money that has not been applied to hire a contracted social worker to work for eight hours per week from Jan- uary until June 2017.
“Those individuals that are in the program now will continue to be served by not only the adminis- trative person, but also to add the social work com- ponent to that to keep the program afloat,” he said.
About $98,000 goes into the Vision 20/20 program per year, Minnick said, in employee salary and ben- efits. The program in total costs just over $103,000.
There are currently eight active participants in the program with seven single parent households, Minnick said, including 25 young children and four adult children. There were 24 participants in total, she said, but 16 of them are nonactive and have stopped communi- cating with the program.
The goal of the program is to “get them out of poverty,” Minnick said. During the last meeting in early November the commissioners requested more information about the program’s successes, but Minnick said successes are hard to track because “individual goals are set differently.”
For some people, she said, gaining employment is a success and for others maintaining that employment can be considered a success. But the program always points applicants in the best direction possible, she noted.
Davis, who initially proposed the program in 2012, said she was completely blindsided by the move to shift funding away from the program and cited a lack of transparency on the board’s part in coming up with this resolution.
“All of this is done with no discussion, no inclusion of me, who has spearheaded the Vision 20/20 program,” she said. “There’s no transparency at all. No discussions at all.”
Murphy introduced the resolution to establish the partnership between Health Partners and the county’s Department of Health at the end of the meeting, but in the same meeting, Minnick gave a briefing and further information requested by the commissioners on Vision 20/20.
Vision 20/20 was just a pilot program, Murphy said, and the solutions have not worked the way the commissioners orig- inally intended. The program does not provide any direct services for its applicants, he said, and points them in the right directions, but this health partnership will directly provide people with af- fordable health options.
But Davis said many cit- izens in Western Charles County need someone to point them in the appropriate direction for resources. Defunding the program would endanger those who are helped by it and those who need it in the future.
“It wasn’t just health. It wasn’t just housing. The people in Western Charles County need so much else,” she said.
Davis said she was thankful the other commissioners are going to hire a health contractor to help with the program in the future, but wanted more of a longterm solution for Vision 20/20.
“I knew it was done at the last meeting,” she said.
Commissioner Bobby Rucci (D) said he does not like seeing Vision 20/20 lose its funding, but said, “I’m not going to vote against health.”
“I’d like to see if we could keep them both going, but it is what it is,” he said.
Murphy said establishing a health clinic is not choosing between “good or bad, better or worse,” but rather making sure that the people the com- missioners represent have viable options and can serve who they need to serve.
“A goal very good elected officials and every leader should possess is a capacity to look beyond self and encompass the greater good,” Murphy said. “This is about organizations coming together. This, to me, is good government.”