GALION — From birth certificates to restaurant inspections to a car seat program, the Galion City Health Department is the go-to place for a variety of services in the community.
The health department is taking a hit in the city’s budget for 2017, which is also part of the five-year recovery plan to get the city out of fiscal emergency. The city subsidized the health department’s budget in 2016 with a total of $312,000 in funds. For 2017, $250,900 has been allocated.
“We do a lot of things in the community that people do not realize such as the health piece of the summer lunch program. We went out to the sites this past summer and talked with parents and kids about things like healthy eating habits, the importance of buckling up in the car and immunizations,” said Health Commissioner Trish Factor. “We also offer a car seat program and many other programs that may not be able to continue because of the cut in our budget.”
Factor said an important role of the health department is the current contract with Galion City Schools and St. Joseph’s Catholic School.
“We cannot keep our school contract if we do not have the staff to operate the program,” she said.
The school program includes various screenings, monitoring sugar levels of diabetics, treating minor injuries and providing education.
The health department is currently taking applications for a full-time director of nursing program.
“We also have a part-time position to fill, but are holding off at this point because we are not sure if we can afford it,” she
Factor said that the two largest costs for the health department are wages and benefits, and immunizations.
“We pay for the immunizations up front then hope to recoup the costs later through insurance,” Factor said.
Factor said each of Ohio’s 88 counties has a health department, but each city has the option to have their own.
“Galion has chosen to have its own health department which makes it much easier on residents, she said. “Many of the people we serve walk here. We even have an agreement with Community Counseling Services so people can come here to see a counselor rather than having to drive to Bucyrus.”
Factor said the health department also handles more than 30 nuisance-type complaints per city ordinances.
“That costs money. If the city was under the county health department, they would have to hire someone to complete the nuisance investigations,” she explained.
Factor said she wants to see the city get out of fiscal emergency.
“But we did not provide the city with a wish list like some departments did for 2017. We provided them with a realistic budget,” Factor said.
Mayor Tom O’Leary said at Tuesday’s city council meeting the department can come back to ask for more funding if needed for specific items, such as vaccinations. Council members Susan Bean and Jim Hedges voted to add in the $62,000 for the health department in the 2017 budget, as well as the recovery plan, but the issue was voted down, 5-2 by other council members.
“I wanted to avoid going back to the city for more funding throughout the year because that slows down the process of getting out of fiscal emergency,” Factor said.
The balance of the department’s $517,293 budget is funded through insurance payments, contractual services and a small subsidy from the state.
“We received $1,978 from the state subsidy for the year,” Factor said.
For more information about the health department, visit http://www.galionhealth.org.