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Unallotment of state funds will be felt in county family services dept.

WILLMAR -- The unallotment of state funds is hurting community partners, such as nursing homes and residential group homes, that provide services to Kandiyohi County Family Service clients.

It's hoped that new federal stimulus mo-ney will help fill the financial gaps, but Kandiyohi County Family Services Director Jay Kieft is worried about what will happen when the federal money disappears next year.

"The stimulus monies are only around for a brief period of time," Kieft said Tuesday, following a presentation to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners.

"The challenge will be, once they're gone, whether we can restore that service, or find the revenue to restore that service into upcoming fiscal years."

Gov. Tim Pawlenty implemented the unallotment of $246 million in health and human service funds to offset a $2.7 billion state budget deficit.

Kieft said those who provide services to county residents are feeling the impact of the unallotment. The "squeeze is being put on them" as reimbursements are delayed, reduced or frozen.

For example, Kieft said, the adjustment to nursing homes' base reimbursement rates has been delayed. That means community nursing homes that provide care for residents receiving county family service assistance will not be able to recoup the full cost of their services.

The same is true for group residential homes for those with disabilities.

The unallotment also means delays in hospital payment, reductions in reimbursements for non-primary and specialist health care and a reduction of critical access dental care for those receiving Medical Assistance.

The county's Family Services Department this year will take a $172,000 reduction to its Children and Community Service Act grant. The grant has been used for mental health care, foster care and family-based services. Next year the reduction will about $225,000.

"One of our budget challenges for next year will be to compensate for that unallotment," Kieft said.

Despite the challenges, Kieft said balancing the needs of clients with less state money is "our reality" and the county is ready to "respond strategically" to the challenges.

Part of that process will likely include a redesign of how counties and the state provide health and human service care.

Kandiyohi County could get some assistance with increased crisis funding that is part of the stimulus package.

At the direction of the state Department of Human Services, the commissioners approved a revised policy and procedure manual that would increase individual allocations and widen eligibility in some areas. If the state can show a need for additional emergency money, it could be eligible for the federal funding.

The county received $50,000 in crisis/emergency funds this year, a $10,000 decrease from 2008.

It's not known how much new crisis money the county could get, but it's not likely to be a huge amount and it won't fix every problem, Kieft said, adding that efforts will be made to work with community partners who may also receive stimulus funding to make sure the money is used efficiently to fill the gaps without duplicating services.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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