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Portage County Health Collaborations Produce Results

Posted Jul. 21, 2014

 Local health departments in Portage County are expanding their collaborations, enabling increased service and decreased cost, through efforts made under two grants administered by the college’s Center for Public Policy and Health (CPPH).  
 
One of the most significant results has been for the Kent and Portage County health departments, along with representatives from Ravenna, to collaborate on determining community health needs and a planning process to address them.  This joint community health assessment is being conducted in partnership with stakeholder groups and is required for accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB).  The study was launched in June and a report is expected later this year.
 
Ravenna, Kent and Portage County also have expanded cross-jurisdictional sharing arrangements that distribute the cost of programs and services.  For example, the Kent Health Department – in cooperation with the Portage County Health Department – is implementing a mosquito-control program for the entire county, and vital records services for Ravenna have been transferred to Kent.  The efforts to expand collaboration and cross-jurisdictional arrangements have received $125,000 in support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), as part of a national study about cooperative methods of sharing public health services across boundaries.
 
In addition, the CPPH has been assisting the Ravenna and Portage County health departments in their efforts to merge.  Support from the Ohio Local Government Innovation Fund is underwriting the effort.  To date, Ravenna has disbanded its health department and contracted for services from Portage County in a functional merger relationship that is saving money for the city and expanding health services for its residents.  Ravenna City Council vote on a full merger is anticipated later this year, based upon recommendation to proceed from the city council health committee.  The CPPH has assessed feasibility, facilitated agreement on consolidation arrangements, performed analyses to brief officials and aid decision-making and conducted research on projected costs of eventual certification by the PHAB.  The most recent State of Ohio budget authorized the Ohio Department of Health to withhold state and federal grants from local health departments that lack accreditation.
 
In other local government work, Marion County commissioned the CPPH to examine how merged county and city health departments in Ohio determined post-consolidation shares of program funding during the period 2000-12.  The study assessed the bases upon which shares were determined, looked at dollar contributions across consolidations and identified best practices regarding carry-over funds.  Because of larger statewide interest in the findings, the CPPH, in cooperation with the Marion County Combined General Health District, anticipates issuing information sheets based on study results in the near future.
 
All of these projects are being facilitated by John Hoornbeek, PhD, associate professor, Health Policy & Management, and Josh Filla, outreach program coordinator, of the CPPH.