News Details - Legislature Moves to Divest of Home Health Agency
Culminating months of discussion and in-depth review, the Legislature has reached the difficult decision of deciding the future of the Certified Home Health Agency (CHHA), operated by the Health Department. The Legislature, by a vote of 9-6, following nearly two hours of thoughtful discussion, authorized the County to move to divest of the agency, seeking another qualified provider to purchase the Agency license. (Legislators Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Dave McKenna, Kathy Luz Herrera, Dooley Kiefer, Pam Mackesey, and Health and Human Services Committee Chair Frank Proto voted no.)
Legislator after legislator commented on the extreme difficulty of the decision—since they value the employees, their dedication, and the excellent care the program provides. But in light of the extreme fiscal constraints the County faces for the year ahead, the majority concluded the County cannot reasonably keep the public service, which currently requires an annual taxpayer subsidy of $400,000, when study over the past few months has shown another agency can provide quality care, without the County paying for it. Legislator Nathan Shinagawa said that, with another provider preserving the service, he believes the decision actually produces less harm than many other very difficult decisions that will be necessary in the coming budget season. Reminding his colleagues that more than $3 million in reductions will be needed to meet the Legislature’s tax levy goal, Legislator Brian Robison said that the decision must be made “with our heads, rather than our hearts.”
Before the final vote, both Legislator Dooley Kiefer and Health and Human Services Chair Frank Proto, advanced substitute proposals that would have retained the CHHA and invested in financial and efficiency improvements advanced by the Health Department to reduce the deficit. Both proposals failed by votes of 6-9. Proto was one who urged that the Legislature consider the value of the license and to give more time to turn things around. Proto, Kiefer, and several others said the decision should be delayed until the budget process, when it could be reviewed with other programs. Both Legislators Leslyn McBean-Clairborne and Kathy Luz Herrera said they’re troubled by divestiture, since services like this are something the County should do.
Legislature Chair Martha Robertson said the matter amounts to “a structural issue we have been handed by the State” through its cut in support. She thanked all who have been involved in a transparent review process over many months which enabled an informed decision, and promised that involvement will continue to ensure that community values are reflected as the process moves forward.