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Supervisors Approve New Rate For Horizons

By Staff | Jul 10, 2008

A new way of billing for supported employment services at Horizons Unlimited was approved by the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors during its weekly session on Tuesday. Board members also discussed tree removal on a drainage ditch west of Emmetsburg, and also discussed the continuation of a mental health program for inmates in the county jail.

Ed Hannagin, Executive Director of Horizons Unlimited, and Lana Williams, Vocational Services Director of the organization, presented their new rate proposal to the board members.

In the past, Horizons’ clients who received supported employment services were billed to the county’s Mental Health budget at a rate of $40 per day, However, the Horizons staff had developed a new way of billing for the services.

“For our home and community based services, we have set up two different billing rates,” Williams explained. “The first is what we call Enclave Services, where we team one staff member with four or five clients out on a community job site. That rate would be billed at $4.57 per hour, and we figure a six-hour day.”

Williams continued, “The second rate would be for Job Coaching, where we have a staff member working exclusively with one client at their job, with the ultimate goal of that client being able to hold the job on their own within one year. That rate would be $24,95 an hour.”

Palo Alto County Mental Health Director Maureen Sandberg noted that the supported employment program in the past had been run through Work Activity, billed at the $40 per day rate. “What will this cost us?” asked Supervisor Jerry Hofstad.

“Hopefully, it will actually cost us less,” Sandberg replied. “It will allow us to break these costs out better, and it actually should cost less in a lot of cases.”

Supervisor Ed Noonan quickly introduced a motion to approve the new rate, which was seconded and approved on a unanimous vote of the board.

In other business, the board met with Richard Schany of Graettinger to discuss the removal of trees along Drainage Ditch 132, just west of Emmetsburg along U.S. Highway 18. The ditch sustained flood damage last fall and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had determined the ditch required repairs from its outlet at the Des Moines River and westward along Highway 18.

The board askedSchany to prepare an estimate to remove and dispose the trees from the river to the white cement bridge on 440 Avenue. However, on Tuesday, the board determined that the FEMA plans called for work to extend further west of 440 Avenue. Schany agreed to look at the additional length of ditch and prepare a new estimate.

The supervisors also met with Sandberg and Sheriff Denny Goeders to discuss the future of the Integrated Services Pathway (ISP) program in the county.

“I guess I’m curious if we want to keep this going,” Supervisor Keith Wirtz said, opening the conversation. “It was started with a grant, and now the county is being asked to pay for it. If we choose not to support it, is it worth having to you? Is the public gaining from it?”

The sheriff quickly replied to the affirmative.

“If we had a more modern facility where we could isolate these inmates if they become violent, it would help,” Goeders said. “But the ISP gives us a better alternative and actual preventative treatment. The other thing is the liability for us if these people get violent in jail. We just don’t have a facility to handle really violent inmates.”

“What do we need over there, a padded room or a new jail?” Hofstad asked the sheriff.

Goeders replied the cost of a new jail with specialized facilities would be cost prohibitive. “I don’t really have a good space right now for a padded room”

“I think that would be cheaper in the long run than $1,050 a month for the ISP,” Hofstad said.

“The biggest thing is that its the option of some place to turn to, for the liability sake,” Goeders reiterated.

“The idea of the ISP is to try and keep these people from ending up back in jail,” Sandberg agreed.

“I understand that,” Supervisor Jerry Hofstad said, “but someday, we have to stop spending money on things like this. Enough is enough.”

“I’m disappointed that he federal government didn’t keep up the funding too,” Sandberg said.

“They must not have thought the program was worth it,” Hofstad observed.

“Well, I do really think that this is a good program, especially for smaller jails like ours,” Sheriff Goeders said.

The board agreed to continue the discussion.