Community health center faces delay Medicaid laws have changed

February 20, 1997|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

CLARIFICATION

An article in yesterday's Carroll County edition of The Sun should have described a planned center in Taneytown as a community services center. The center will include offices of the Youth Services Bureau, the Department of Social Services and Taneytown Caring and Sharing ministry.

Carroll County Health Department has dropped plans to provide immunizations and other services at a proposed community health center in Taneytown because of changes in state Medicaid laws.

The Health Department withdrawal comes 18 months after Taneytown City Council approved a $100,000 state grant to turn a vacant building into a community center. Its endorsement came only after the Health Department agreed not to provide family planning services at the facility.

The center, which was to be housed in a former bank on East Baltimore Street, may be delayed indefinitely because of lack of money to design renovations.

The Health Department's plans to offer an array of services at the center have been canceled because of a 1996 General Assembly initiative to transfer Medicaid patients to health maintenance organizations.

The initiative was an effort to hold down medical costs and give patients better access to preventive care and other services.

As a result, the Health Department has been closing clinics throughout the county and trying to find private physicians to treat former clinic patients.

"Things have changed so dramatically," said Janet W. Neslen, a retired county health officer. "A tremendous number of kids have been switched to private doctors. We're not doing a lot of children [care] any more."

Medical assistance covers prenatal care for women whose incomes are up to 185 percent of poverty level, which means private physicians are more willing to take them, Neslen said.

"They're no longer anathema to the private sector," she said.

Taneytown, where one-third of adult women live below the poverty line, needs health services, Neslen said.

She said nurses will visit the community to screen for illnesses such as tuberculosis or sexually transmitted diseases. The Health Department will continue to provide family planning, gynecology and colposcopy services in Westminster, Neslen said.

Prenatal and well-baby clinics in Westminster have closed.

The monthly WIC (Women-Infants-Children) program, which serves 108 families in Taneytown, will continue at Trinity Lutheran Church, 38 W. Baltimore St. WIC provides food vouchers and nutrition education.

The county's Youth Services Bureau, the Department of Social Services and Taneytown Caring and Sharing Ministries are interested in using the proposed center to provide community services.

County officials have said they wanted to open the center in Taneytown because the lack of public transportation makes it difficult for northwestern Carroll residents to travel to Westminster for health and social services.

The City Council has been reluctant to advertise for bids for the center without design specifications that would ensure quality materials.

"If you ask for nothing, you get nothing," Councilman Henry C. Heine Jr. said at a meeting this month. "We should insist on what minimum type doors we want, what kind of construction."

City Manager Charles "Chip" Boyles is looking for design help from county government, but Cindy Parr, a county spokeswoman, said she doesn't believe the county has the expertise Taneytown needs.

Jolene Sullivan, the county's director of Citizen Services, said state money was tight when Carroll officials applied for the renovation grant in 1995.

"I guess the problem was initially that we didn't look for architectural and engineering [financing]," she said.

Taneytown doesn't have the resources to draw up bid specifications, Boyles said. He estimated the cost of an architect's services at $5,000 to $10,000.

The city recently received approval from the state Community Development Block Grant program to earmark $5,000 of its grant for general administrative costs.

Boyles said the money will be used for environmental assessment of the building and supervision of the project.

Pub Date: 2/20/97

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