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New health assessment plan to be ‘revolutionary’ change for Kandiyohi Co., Minn.

WILLMAR — A change in how the state wants assessments conducted before individuals with disabilities or the elderly can receive certain public health services will mean extra staff and extra time for Kandiyohi County, which serves as a regional center for group homes. corporate foster care and assisted living facilities.

Kandiyohi County Board Chairman Harlan Madsen on Tuesday called the upcoming changes “revolutionary” for the county. He said the end result will be positive, but there will be “bumps in the road” during the transition.

Called MnChoices, the change is expected to be implemented sometime this year.

It will require as-sessments to be conducted by the county where the individual is living and receiving the services, said Ann Stehn, director of the county’s combined public health and human services departments. In the past, those assessments were done by the home county of the individuals.

Because Kandiyohi County is a regional center and home to a large number of group homes and other facilities that draw people from at least 70 counties, Stehn said there will be a “substantial increase” in the number of assessments that county staff will have to conduct.

She said Kandiyohi County will have to conduct about 600 new assessments, which is the largest percentage increase in volume of assessments of any Minnesota county.

On top of that, the assessments will shift from a paper-based system to a lengthier web-based system that will be more detailed and look at the “whole person,” Stehn said.

The extra responsibilities will mean hiring additional staff — a cost that is not in the current budget, said County Administrator Larry Kleindl. Those costs are expected to be covered by the state, but the county will likely have to front the expense and wait for reimbursements.

Stehn said they are developing plans to be prepared for the change when the state implements it.

Meanwhile, Kandiyohi County is continuing to work with Renville County on a joint public health board and plans for sharing services, including the counties’ environmental health services — food and beverage inspections, for example.

That cooperation includes working together on a required public health assessment plan that’s required this year, as well as an optional lengthy process of accreditation. The state Health Department has begun the process of accreditation, and a community health advisory board has recommended that local health departments follow suit.

Working with Renville County would streamline the process and reduce costs, Stehn said.

“I hear cost savings and I hear good working relationship,” said Commissioner Jim Butterfield, who praised the cooperative program with Renville County.

Having the accreditation would make the county eligible for additional grants, Stehn said.

The collaboration and “cross-jurisdictional” sharing of services between the public health departments of the two counties is part of a national trend, Stehn said.  

“It’s a movement that’s picking up a lot of steam across the country,” she said.

Because of that cooperation, both counties are involved with a national learning collaborative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Being involved with that project will allow the two local counties to learn lessons from other entities across the country and allow others to learn from what’s happening here, Stehn said.

In other action, the Kandiyohi County Commissioners:

  •  Heard an update on projects conducted by the Kandiyohi County Soil and Water District that have helped improve water quality in lakes and streams.
  • Approved a 30-cent increase for pawn shop transaction fees, for a total of $1.40. The new revenue will cover costs for additional programs that are being implemented by the Minneapolis Police Department, which operates the programs that attempt to recover stolen property by tracking items brought to pawn shops. Programs that are in the works include “snappers” that would allow victims of theft to put the serial and property registration number of stolen items into a network to search for a match. Another program would target theft of scrap metals.
  • Approved an agreement with the state for using County Road 7 as a detour route this year while an 18-mile stretch of state Highway 9 in Swift County is resurfaced.

Carolyn Lange

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

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