ERIE — A pregnancy resource center is not in the cards for Neosho County.
Pregnancy resource centers are non-profit organizations that typically offer free pregnancy services to the community such as testing, counseling, and other educational resources and supplies.
During her report at the Feb. 22 county commission meeting, Neosho County Health Department Administrator Teresa Starr made a pitch for such a facility. As a preamble, Starr told commissioners that NCHD is doing well with grant funding, with a combined total of more than $300,000. The total figure is being propped up by two grants – a maternal child health care services grant and another related to COVID-19. She also noted that the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and grant has been integral to NCHD.
“It’s a very extensive grant. Very in-depth and involved,” Starr said. “That is one of the reasons I feel like we could possibly support, in some ways, a pregnancy resource center.”
Commissioner Nic Galemore noted that the funding for NCHD’s Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) grant will expire in mid-2024, along with the roughly $100,000 that is attached with it.
Starr made no comments on logistics or actual raw pregnancy data within the county. Her main argument centered on the overall impact of the facility.
“This is one of the reasons I went ahead and bought a server and got our phone systems (upgraded),” she said, referring to expenditures made with COVID-19 grant dollars. “We did things that we won’t need again until, hopefully, after I’m gone. We tried to do things that meant a lot, that would keep us sustained for a while.”
Galemore steered the discussion back on topic.
“As you add these activities or projects, there will be an ongoing cost in order to maintain them,” he said, adding that he would need more information to bring future budget ramifications into clearer focus.
While details remained scant, Starr said she has already had discussions with an employee of Kansas Maternal and Child Health, a state government agency in Topeka. NCHD initially received $30,000 in grants from MCH three years ago, with that number reaching $48,000 for the most recent year.
“I’ve already talked with the MCH program, and they are hoping they will be able to offer some more funding. They think it’s very possible,” she said, noting that she has asked for close to $60,000 on the next round of grants.
Galemore continued to express reservations.
“I just have to have a plan. I’m not saying it isn’t possible, but this will come to an end,” Galemore reiterated of the ELC grant. “At that point, we would have to go back to the taxpayers to maintain it. If getting other grants to help subsidize it doesn’t come to fruition, who pays for it?”
Commission Chair Gail Klaassen mentioned the SEK Multi-County Health Department in Allen County as having a pregnancy resource center. According to its website, they offer pregnancy testing for $15 and related medical referrals. They also offer testing for sexually transmitted infections and correlating treatment.
Klaassen said the operation started out as being volunteer and community-based.
“I’ve been involved in enough community projects that if it’s not community-based and community-funded, it comes to an end,” she said. “You need to have a vision outside of the county health department. You’ve got to get community involvement. It starts with people in communities who have that vision.”
“You have to have a local buy-in of a certain group of people that can perpetuate it,” he said.
Starr sought further feedback on the potential framework of the project.
“Okay, so starting out with possibly people that are interested in helping?” she asked. “Get a building and get volunteers and help us with firewalls and policies?”
Discussion continued between commissioners and Starr.
“If you’re talking about physical structures, is that a donated building, and how is the maintenance of that building?” Galemore asked. “How are the utilities and all the things that go beyond just having the building and its cost?”
Starr indicated that a location in close proximity of NCHD would be ideal.
“Stewart’s Furniture or a big building like that. Having our store right there, and that would just be us,” Starr explained.
Starr’s comment was met with awkward silence.
“That’s a pretty big vision,” Klaassen said. “I don’t see how the county can support that.”
Starr said she understood.
“It’s just something I’ve been thinking about,” she said. “I do realize it would be a lot of extra work, but it wouldn’t be the first time we did something extra.”
Starr said she’s hopeful that commissioners will give the idea more thought and revisit it down the road.
“It’s just like buying a house, you’re going to carefully think about it. So you plant the seed and hope it grows,” Starr told The Tribune.
Commissioners also signed off on paperwork related to grant applications that Starr will send to the state. Starr revealed she’s requesting close to $50,000 in grant funding in the area of family planning.
Galemore asked about the projected timetable of the state’s approval of the grants.
Starr said that NCHD received that answer last year in late July, but that it could be as early as June 1.
“The last two years we’ve already started (using) the grant before we get the awarded amount, and I don’t know why,” she said. “So then you send in a revised grant and they approve that.”
Commissioners also approved:
• Consent agenda, consisting of accounts payable in the amount of $455,595.75
• Two payroll clearings in the amount of $169,632.43 and $72,322.50
• Minutes from the Jan. 31 meeting
• Time off request for Maintenance Director David Burnett
• Request by Emergency Management Director Melanie Kent-Culp to attend three separate training workshops. The only of the three to charge an attendance fee is the Central States hazmat preparedness conference in Independence, Mo, with a charge of $200. Kent-Culp said she would also be touring the National Weather Service forecasting office in Wichita on April 13. She told commissioners that she’s working on the county’s emergency operations plan, which is set to expire in November. The plan will be devised with input from the health, police, sheriff and fire departments, as well as commissioners. She anticipates that the plan will exceed 300 pages in length.
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