Health Department Consolidation -- Local Funding Share Analysis Available
The college’s Center for Public Policy and Health (CPPH) is making available two information sheets resulting from its recent examination of how merged Ohio county and city health departments determined post-consolidation local shares of program funding. The study, commissioned by Marion Public Health (MPH), assessed the bases upon which shares were determined, looked at dollar contributions across consolidations and identified best practices regarding carry-over funds during the period 1999-2013. Because of potential statewide interest in the findings, the CPPH and MPH are making the information sheets available on a complimentary basis to interested parties upon request to Joshua Filla, CPPH outreach program coordinator, or via the CPPH website. The information sheets were also distributed at the Association of Ohio Health Commissioners annual conference in late September.
“As Ohio health departments look to consolidate, one of the key issues is how to split costs to fund the new department’s operations,” observes John Hoornbeek, PhD, associate professor, Health Policy & Management, and director of the CPPH. “These information sheets will help departments understand how others have split costs of health services post consolidation,” he adds.
This research is just the most recent example of the CPPH’s work in assisting local entities throughout Ohio in efforts to join forces to better serve their constituents. For example, the CPPH recently evaluated the effects of consolidation on 20 Ohio health department mergers, examining impacts on expenditures, revenues and services in a study funded by the Ohio Research Association for Public Health Improvement, the University of Kentucky and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
In July, the CPPH also saw culmination of its project to assist the Ravenna and Portage County health departments in efforts to merge their operations, when the Ravenna City Council voted to fully merge the two health departments. The Portage County Combined General Health District Advisory Board had previously authorized the consolidation.
“Implementation details are now being worked out, as the jurisdictions anticipate saving money and expanding services for city residents,” says Hoornbeek. The CPPH assessed feasibility, facilitated meetings to reach agreement on consolidation arrangements, performed analyses to brief officials and aid decision-making and conducted research on potential costs of eventual accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). Support for the project came from the Ohio Local Government Innovation Fund, the City of Ravenna and the Portage County Health District.
The first Ohio health department accredited by the PHAB, Summit County Public Health, also benefited from consolidation-related counsel from the CPPH. The center evaluated the year-one impact of uniting the Summit County and Akron and Barberton city health departments. Several other jurisdictions are presently in conversation with the CPPH about collaboration or consolidation support.
Hoornbeek sees two trends driving interest in shared services and consolidation. One is increased desire for meeting accreditation standards. “Many departments are realizing that they may not have sufficient resources to meet PHAB’s accreditation standards on their own,” he observes. A second trend is an impetus from the state to streamline local government, given that Ohio has among the largest number of local government units in the nation, including more than 120 health departments. Some 23 counties have more than one health department, according to the Ohio Department of Health website. “It’s a major push in Ohio right now to strengthen local government infrastructures, enhance service quality and eliminate unnecessary duplication,” he says.