On Aug. 19, the Barry County Health Department Board of Trustees approved a healthcare services contract with St. John's Hospital-Cassville.
As a critical access hospital, St. John's is eligible to participate in the 340B drug purchasing program, which will allow the hospital to purchase medications at discount prices. In order to participate, a state or local government entity must certify that the hospital will provide healthcare services to low income individuals who are not entitled to Social Security benefits.
"I think this is a good way to work with the local hospital and develop a base for working with the hospital in other ways later on," said Roger Brock, health department administrator.
According to the approved contract, the hospital will provide the health department with an annual report describing the type and total amount of free and reduced fee services provided. The Barry County Health Department has no obligations under the agreement, and either party may terminate the agreement with 30 days written notice.
In new business, the board approved a variance request for a new septic system that will be placed on a 3,630-square-foot lot in Cassville.
"The homeowners are requesting a variance to shorten the distance for the setback from the property lines and house," said Brock. "The system will meet the 100-foot setback from all wells located in the area.
"There are no restrictions that should raise any red flags as far as the soil is concerned," said Brock. "They have received approval for the variance from all of the neighbors."
Brock recommended the board approve the variance request, which will allow the homeowner to replace a defective septic system with a working system.
The board also approved a new client call system called Call 'Em All. The new system will issue automated telephone reminders regarding vaccinations and appointments. The system will deliver messages at a cost of four cents per call.
"I think this is a very intriguing option to help cut our expenses," said Brock. "We mail out postcard reminders now."
The new client call system does not require the health department to enter into a contract. Call 'Em All will provide the department with a $25 credit, which will allow the agency to conduct around 650 calls. If the health department is not satisfied with the service, it can be cancelled after the trial period.
The health department will generate a list of numbers and call messages to be issued by the automated system. Clients who are not interested in receiving a reminder will not receive a call.
The health department's monthly service fees report showed that the amount of service fees collected increased more than 139 percent between July of 2009 and July of 2010. Increased revenues were generated through a slight increase in service fees and an increase in services provided.
"Not only does this show our improvement, but it is evidence of economic recovery because people are out there spending money," said John Starchman, board chairman.
Brock pointed out that even though people are beginning to choose to receive more services, state budget cuts could mean deeper funding cuts for area health departments. For this reason, the local health department is working to maintain a conservative budget.
"This year, we have saved around $120,000," said Nancy Boyd, health department executive assistant. "We are operating with what we need as far as supplies. We are not choosing to purchase any extras. If something breaks we repair it, but we are not purchasing new items."
"You have to make sure you do not get ahead of yourself with the cuts we are seeing this year," said Brock. "The core functions contract has not been approved by the governor yet and that funding could even be cut further."
In July, the board heard that the Barry County Health Department's core functions contract was reduced by 16.37 percent or $9,439. Over the last two years, the department's core functions funding has been cut by around $16,000.
In other business, the Barry County Health Department Board of Trustees:
* Heard that Jan Cox, environmental public health specialist, is taking part in a state food service inspections pilot program.
* Set the 2010 tax rate at $0.708. Last year, the rate was set at $0.706.
* Heard that Brock participated in an emergency response and planning exercise in Branson.