This Board meeting included two actions related to health care that signal encouraging changes for Shasta County residents. The Board conducted a “Beilenson hearing”, or public hearing. State law requires that before a county can reduce or eliminate or change medical or health care services to the public, it must post information regarding the change for 14 days in locations where the services are provided, and hold a public hearing to offer the public an opportunity for comment. In this case, the Public Health Department proposed to eliminate immunization and tuberculosis testing clinics held twice monthly in regional offices in Enterprise and Anderson. The Public Health Department received no written comments on the proposed closure and no written or oral comments were received at the hearing.
The Public Health Department has found that the number of persons seeking immunization or tuberculosis testing at these clinics has dropped to historic lows (between 6 and 12 persons a month at each location). They believe that Medi-Cal Managed Care implementation in the county has allowed more individuals to identify a ‘medical home’ or primary care provider. In addition, the Affordable Care Act will further increase the number of persons who receive such preventive care from private providers in the community. The Board requested assurances that the reduction in clinics was not premature. The Public Health Department assured the Board that they would continue to monitor requests in the regional offices for services, and that both services would continue to be available at the main Breslauer Way Public Health Clinic and in the Burney Regional office. Overall, the Public Health Department believes that it will be moving to a system where it provides fewer direct services.
In addition, the Board acted as the Shasta County In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Public Authority Governing Body to change wages and benefits for in-home services workers. This program provides services to low-income people who are aged, blind or disabled and who cannot perform activities of daily living that permit them to remain safely at home. These services include such things as bathing, dressing, cooking, cleaning, grooming and feeding. Caregivers are employed by the recipient of service, who hires, fires and supervises the work. Wages and benefits are established by the IHSS Public Authority, a governing function performed by the Board of Supervisors in this County. On this day, the Board approved a new agreement with the California United Homecare Workers union of IHSS caregivers to discontinue providing health coverage for caregivers, and to use the savings from this action to increase wages. The resulting agreement will raise wages from $9.30 per hour to $9.64 per hour, a 3.7% raise. The Public Authority can accomplish this because IHSS workers will qualify for Medi-Cal or health insurance with a premium subsidy through Covered California, the Affordable Care Act in California. This decision will improve wages for approximately 2500 caregivers and will, according to economists, result in the increased wages being spent directly in the local economy.
The Board took other actions of interest:
- Provided the Shasta County Housing and Community Action Program Department with simpler provisions to reduce low income housing voucher expenditures. This action is taken in anticipation of further reductions in housing subsidies related to federal budget sequestration and other federal budget issues.
- The Board considered a housing program for persons with serious mental illness. Specifically, they approved a project that is a collaboration between Palm Communities (PC, a non-profit developer of housing projects) and Northern Valley Catholic Social Services (local non-profit with experience in housing and supportive social services). This collaboration, called the PC Redding Apartments Limited Partnership, will receive $1.3 million in state Mental Health Services funding allocated to Shasta County for 15 units of supportive housing for individuals or families with serious mental illness or serious emotional disturbance. These units will be a part of a 75-unit complex of affordable and low income housing in the south end of town. The County Health and Human Services Agency will provide an additional nearly $700,000 in state funds for rent subsidies. Finally, the county will provide case management and other services to the individuals in the 15 units, to assure their ability to remain safely in the community. These funds are part of a larger $18 million that includes loans and tax credits for the development of affordable housing.
- Adopted a calendar for Board of Supervisors meeting in calendar year 2014. Supervisor David Kehoe voted no on this item, believing that the number of cancelled meetings (18) is too high. He believes that there is value in making the Board of Supervisors available to the public virtually every week, consistently, even if the other work of the Board can be consolidated in fewer meetings.
Catherine Camp is currently retired. During her career, she worked as a policy and budget analyst for the California Assembly and California Senate, in health and human services fields. She worked as a policy analyst and advocate for California’s public mental health system. Early in her career, she worked in the Community Action and Head Start programs in Shasta County.