Village Is At ‘Critical Crossroads’ Re: Keeping The Park Forest Health Department Open

Dr. Alice Racher, Christine Blue, Neena 'Bonnie' Longley, Lois Coxworth-Gallagher
Former directors of the Park Forest Health Department discuss the services and challenges of running the department at a June 2012 celebration of the 60th anniversary of the department. Seated are Dr. Alice Racher, Christine Blue, Neena ‘Bonnie’ Longley, Lois Coxworth-Gallagher.
(Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- The Village of Park Forest is at a “critical crossroads with continued Health Department services,” according to Village Manager Tom Mick. The Manager wrote this in a January 18, 2018 memo attached to an agenda briefing for a meeting set for January 29 at 6 p.m.

The agenda for the Monday meeting lists one item: “Discussion of Health Department Financials.” The memo from Village Manager Tom Mick cites a number of factors that seem to have contributed to lower revenues for the Health Department. The document mentions the following:

  • A decreasing trend in patient census counts has resulted in a prolonged downward trend in revenues; in particular, with Medicare funding.
  • Nationalized health care over the past several years has exponentially increased the public’s access to health care coverage. This has likely resulted in a larger portion of the public having several options at their disposal in addition to the Health
  • Privately-owned and operated home health care agencies are now commonplace. Such entities were practically nonexistent a decade ago.
  • Other services provided by Health Department Staff such as flu shots, have now been taken over by private vendors. This is especially true with advanced service levels and nurse practitioners at local CVS and Walgreens facilities.
  • Hospitals are very engaged in the business of home health services. This is especially true with the discharge of any patients from the hospital.

The Health Department has seen “a steady decrease in patient census figures over the past decade. While years ago the patient census level could be at, or above, 20 at any given time, these numbers have decreased by 50% to 60% over the past several of years,” with the preceding points among the causes.

The bottom line, however, is an ever-increasing bottom line for taxpayers, with the Health Department seeing a growing reliance on property taxes for operations:

As the tax support has increased over the past several years, Staff has made several cuts to the budget for the Health Department. These efforts have included not replacing Health Department personnel that transition from the department. This can be seen in the staffing levels being reduced from 9.5 in FY 2004/2005 to 9.0 in 2005/06, 8.5 in 2006/07 and 7.0 in 2017/18. Along these same lines, the overall departmental budget has been cut from $1,024,508 in FY 2016/17 to $854,595 in 2017/18. Unfortunately, continued deterioration of revenues could likely see property tax support between $600,000 to $700,000 at the end of the current fiscal year.

The Health Department is seen as part of “non-core services” provided by the Village, i.e. services “that the general public might not readily expect from the municipality. In Park Forest, these include Health Department/nursing services, the housing authority and perhaps even leisure amenities such as the Tennis & Health Club, Freedom Hall and the Aqua Center.”

All non-core services minus the Health Department require around $570,000 support from property taxes.

This means the Health Department needs more property tax support than all other non-core services combined.

“All of the above leads to my belief as the Village Manager that the Village is at a critical crossroads with continued Health Department services,” Mr. Mick concludes in his memo to the Village Board. “The continued direction of decreasing patient censuses and dwindling revenues are not sustainable. Tax support of $600,000 to $700,000 is not fiscally responsible given the Village’s limited tax base.”

This item is scheduled for discussion, not action, at Monday’s Special Rules Meeting in Village Hall.

The meeting begins at 6:00 p.m.

Health Department Special Rules Agenda for January 29, 2018 by GaryKopycinski on Scribd