Supervisors weigh the value of Winneshiek County Public Health services

By Zach Jensen,

The Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors is considering the value of services provided by the county’s Public Health office. During the supervisors’ regular meeting Monday morning, Feb. 5, County Auditor Ben Steines handed out a chart showing that Winneshiek County pays far more than any surrounding county for its public health services. According to the chart, Winneshiek County pays $740,000 per year for its public health services, while Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette and Howard counties, which all rely on hospitals for their public health services, each pay less than $170,000 annually.

“I think this was looked into because of the last six-county meeting, if I’m remembering correctly,” said Supervisor Shirley Vermace. “People were talking about Public Health, how it was run through their hospitals, compared to having it run through the budget for the county. I think that just perked up a lot of our ears that day, at the six-county meeting, and we just wanted to look further into it – to see what we can best do in Winneshiek County.”

“We have a responsibility to our citizens,” added Supervisor Steve Kelsay. “When other counties are able to have a hospital relationship at an average of $140,000 in expense, and ours runs considerably more than that, I think we have to have a justification for the public – a reason why we do that.”

With that, Supervisors Chair Dan Langreck asked Winneshiek County Public Health Administrator Krista Vanden Brink, who was in attendance at the meeting, if she knew how other counties use their hospitals for public health services.

“The hospital-based agencies don’t do a lot of public health services,” Vanden Brink said. “Whereas county-based agencies do historically-more public health services. When we take a look at those hospital-based agencies surrounding us, they are the only ‘home care’ agency in their county. Winneshiek County is unique. We do home care, and we do public health. 

Full article in the February 7 Decorah Public Opinion Newspaper. 

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