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State expected to reduce health department service in Cleburne

Cleburne commission

From left to right, financial administrator Kim Brown; commissioners Terry Hendrix, Laura Cobb, Emmett Owen and Jake Durham; county engineer Lee Estes; and commission chairman Ryan Robertson, standing, at Monday night's Cleburne County Commission work session.

HEFLIN — The Cleburne County Health Department is expecting cuts once a new program by the Alabama Medicaid Agency begins on Jan. 1. 

The cuts were described by Mary Gomillion, Alabama Department of Public Health District Administrator for the Northeastern District, who addressed the Cleburne County Commission Tuesday night and caught the commission off guard about the upcoming cuts.

“As a statewide agency we have lost $11 million dollars because of changes by the Alabama Medicaid Agency,” Gomillion said.

Gomillion said Alabama Medicaid recipients who used to visit the health department will now go to My Care Alabama, which she described as an HMO or managed care system for Medicaid recipients.

“Medicaid wanted to go to a different type of delivery care system,” said Gomillion. 

Gomillion said the Cleburne County Health Department will cut its family planning service to two days each week and no social worker will be present at the office any longer. The environmental office will remain intact at the department but staffing shortages mean that only one or two employees will be present most days according to Gomillion. 

“I hate it. It’s not what we want to do, but financially we don’t have a choice,” she said.

“We may be a little bit slower to respond than we have been because we just don’t have the staff any longer,” said Gomillion. 

Commissioner Jake Durham asked how many people use the health department in Cleburne County.

Gomillion said that four to five hundred people who used family planning services, “won’t be able to come as often as they had.” 

The health department in Calhoun County will still be open all week according to Gomillion and can accomodate Cleburne residents as needed.

Durham pondered the idea of getting a grant to help transportation costs including a bus for Cleburne residents to go to the Calhoun County health department. Gomillion said that was a “great idea.” 

Gomillion hopes there will not be any layoffs in Cleburne County due to the cutbacks and said that $85,000 to $90,000 can be saved by attrition and not replacing staff. 

Bridget Burney, dean of outreach initiatives at Gadsden State Community College, addressed the commission about Alabama Community College System’s Clean Home Alabama Initiative. 

Burney said statewide the community college system initiated over 50 projects to help celebrate Alabama’s Bicentennial and 

Gadsden State undertook five projects in four counties.

On Monday morning 70 faculty, staff and students from Ayers Campus of Gadsden State joined Eric Lovvorn, Director at Cleburne County Technical School, and 170 students for a campus beautification project.

The group sanded 38 poles behind the building to help prepare them for painting. Burney wanted to thank Lovvorn and Chad Young, Cleburne County Schools superintendent, for the opportunity to help. 

In other business the commission discussed Advanced Disposal, the county’s trash contractor. Commissioners discussed the recurring problem of residents’ trash not getting picked up.

The commission discussed putting out bids for the new contract for fiscal 2021 that might include a reimbursement if a customer’s trash is not picked up. 

Lee Estes, Cleburne County Engineer, said the problem is with the drivers of the trash trucks.

“They get a new driver in and it takes them a little while to get the routes down,” Estes said. 

​Staff writer Bill Wilson: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @bwilson_star.