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St. Lawrence County to continue to pay for Long-Term Health Care Agency

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County will continue to pay for its Long-Term Health Care Agency into part of this year even though the Board of Legislators had hoped to shut it down last year.

Legislators agreed Monday to modify the 2014 budget by $35,000 to continue the agency for up to two months.

“What we’re doing here is being cautious,” County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire said.

The Long-Term Health Care Agency is part of the county’s Certified Home Health Agency, which legislators voted to shut down after a state decision that allowed additional providers, which made the county service less competitive. But the state would not allow the county to end the long-term program until another organization took on the vulnerable patients.

Health Services of Northern New York was approved by the state Department of Health, but there was a delay in the agency receiving a Medicaid number so it could bill.

The county transferred the first of 31 patients to Health Services in November. As of Jan. 1, the county was down to seven patients and hopes to transfer two more within the next few days.

Transferring the patients, who often have complex medical issues, has to be done with care, said Debra L. Bridges, fiscal manager with county Public Health.

“They have to ramp up their staffing, and we have to ensure it’s a safe transition,” Mrs. Bridges said.

Legislators also agreed to sign contracts for personal care aides and home health aide services associated with the program and for emergency response services.

Even though the county will have to pay to keep the agency open, most of the money — with the exception of some staffing costs — will be recouped.

“We’ll be able to charge for whatever services we provide,” Mrs. Bridges said.

The remainder of the patients might be transferred within weeks.

“We’re hoping it won’t take very long,” she said.

More than 30 positions in Public Health were lost when the county decided to close the CHHA. The agency has five remaining staff members. Once the agency closes, a registered nurse and a licensed practical nurse will be laid off while the other employees take on other duties in Public Health.

Legislators also modified the 2013 budget for $59,000 in additional expenses for the correctional division of the Sheriff’s Department.

The money — with half to come from a county contingency account and the remainder from other Sheriff’s Department accounts — will pay for inmates housed at Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy.

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