County fa­vors health clinic over Vi­sion 20/20 plan

Davis up­set over los­ing fund­ing for pro­gram she pi­loted last year

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­

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.”

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