Board of Health asks for more detail in billing statements for $1 million HRSA grant

Board voting next week about community health position, HHCC

As year two of the HRSA grant draws to a close in the next few months, the Board of Health is asking for more detailed billing statements from Healthy Henry County Communities director Kelly Carr.

The HRSA grant is a $1 million grant over three years received by Healthy Henry County Communities (HHCC) in 2017. It’s a network development grant to be used to strengthen the rural health care infrastructure. The fiscal agent for the grant is the county.

“This is a ‘big picture’ grant,” Carr said during a board of health meeting on Tuesday, March 12. “We’re building partnerships with the hospital, Family Medicine, behavioral health (centers). It’s figuring out how we put these strictures in place to work together going forward.”

Carr submitted a billing sheet projecting money spent from March to June 2019. Expenses include advertising in three county newspaper, marketing for the new Care Links program, travel for training for the HRSA grant and general supplies.

Berdette Davis, community health consultant with the Iowa Department of Public Health, recommended more detail.

“I think you deserve to know what the expenditures are in detail,” Davis said to board members. “This is a massive, federal grant. As a board you’re the ones who are going to be held accountable.”

Davis suggested the board have Carr adhere to a policy of Public Health’s that the board sign off on expenses over $5,000.

“The more information you provide the better,” Davis said to Carr. “A board is only as good as the information they’re given.”

Board of Health chair Buzz Bezoni agreed that there should be more detail in billing statements for the HRSA grant.

“If we have one thing that goes wrong with this group, it’s that people get left out of the loop,” Bezoni said.

“This is a learning experience for everyone, and I really want to do it right,” said Mary Liechty, member of the Board of Health. “That takes the work of all of us.”

Carr said software purchased for Family Medicine with HRSA funds last year has already lead to an increase in vaccination rates and mammogram completions. The software was $40,000.

“We’re reducing unnecessary ER visits, Family Medicine has seen an increase in preventive measures ... that is saving money for the overall health care system.”

In other news, the Board of Health will meet again on Tuesday, March 19, at 12:30 p.m. to vote on the new community outreach coordinator position at Public Health.

Carr will be taking over the position of community outreach coordinator as she steps down from director of HHCC. This comes after recommendation by the state auditor and county attorney Darin Stater that Carr cannot stay in her current position as get paid by the county as an employee of a nonprofit.

HHCC will be broken up into a board of directors who meet at least once a year to maintain their 501(c) 3 status and a volunteer coalition that will continue the work they are already doing. Carr will not sit on either board.

The board plans to vote that the job of community outreach coordinator be full-time. A summary of the position from a draft of the job description says that the community outreach coordinator assesses the need for, plans for and coordinates the implementation of community health programs, services and activities based on the Board of Health’s strategic plan and health need priorities.

Carr said they are still playing with titles for the job, but community outreach coordinator seems to fit best with the position.

“A lot of what I would be doing is getting information out to the community, working with other community partners and connecting with other initiatives,” Carr said. “This still is 100 percent a full-time job. The only piece being removed is doing the agendas and running the Healthy Henry County meetings and doing the financials, which is not a lot of time and can easily be made up with HRSA.

Ken Brown, who sat on the HHCC task force exploring these issues, asked where the funding for the salary of community outreach coordinator was coming from.

“It was never addressed if funding for this salary will be an issue or not,” Brown said. “If it’s not an issue, then let’s move on. We know there’s work to justify a full-time position. It’s is the money there?”

Once the Board of Health has approved a recommendation for the position of community outreach coordinator, it will be sent to the Board of Supervisors for final approval.