Borough health budget up; VNA, HRD to fold?

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NAUGATUCK — The borough’s overall health and welfare budget will receive an approximately $32,000 bump in funding over the current year in the 2010-11 budget recently adopted by the joint boards of Mayor and Burgesses and Finance.

A subcommittee of the joint boards, comprising Burgess Mindy Fragoso and finance board members Don Carten and Diane Scinto, examined the current structure of individual health and welfare departments—Social Services, Youth and Family Services, and the Visiting Nurse’s Association—in order to make recommendations about streamlining their operations and reducing overall costs without cutting services to those who need them.

The joint boards took no action on the subcommittee’s recommendations when they adopted the overall budget last Thursday and voted to approve the overall, $7.8 million health and welfare budget. But they acknowledged the borough board might look into restructuring, or even eliminating, some of the individual departments in question in coming months.

“We’re trying to look at ways to consolidate a little bit,” Scinto said.

The Naugatuck VNA moved into its Rubber Avenue building in July 2008 and celebrated its 90th anniversary last September, but the organization’s future is up for debate among members of a health and welfare committee.
The Naugatuck VNA moved into its Rubber Avenue building in July 2008 and celebrated its 90th anniversary last September, but the organization’s future is up for debate among members of a health and welfare committee.

Human Resources Development is a private social services agency to which the borough allocates a yearly, $30,000 sum to provide social (busing, referral and mental health) services to in-need residents. HRD requested—and was narrowly denied in a 9-8 January vote of the joint boards—$20,000 in additional borough funding after losing a state grant that comprised about 55 percent of its yearly operating budget.

The subcommittee has recommended that HRD be absorbed into Youth and Family Services—“a viable suggestion,” according to finance board Chairman Ray Lennon, Jr.—and that the $30,000 allotted to HRD be transferred into that department.

The subcommittee also recommends the Senior Center absorb the HRD bus but that the two remain separate entities, serving the two different clienteles they do now. Its report notes, “having one source of dispatch could possibly enhance bus services to the citizens of Naugatuck that currently use these buses,” but that the borough would, in turn, need to buy the HRD bus or look into buying another one.

The only recommendation the subcommittee put forth regarding Youth and Family Services is that the department “reign in some of their service offerings,” such as speaking engagements at the library and Senior Center, and “work more within their mission statement.”

When it came down to the Naugatuck Visiting Nurse’s Association, the committee’s members did not reach a consensus, and a vibrant discussion about the VNA ensued at the joint boards’ budget meeting.

The committee erroneously reported to the joint boards that the VNA serves only senior citizens; in fact, it serves patients over the age of 18 who have been referred by a physician.

Scinto said agencies such as the VNAs of Waterbury and Watertown could pick up where the local VNA leaves off, as she recommended phasing out the agency over time.

According to the committee’s report, the VNA services about 300 borough residents.

Fragoso recommended discontinuing funding for the VNA, this year, “as we know it,” based on the duplication of services and the cost to the borough. The borough is reimbursed through Medicare and Medicaid for VNA services but is projected to spend about $16,000 out-of-pocket in 2010-11 to fund the service. That projection does not factor in the pension and employee insurance benefits paid by the borough, which is significantly more than $16,000—though officials didn’t have an exact number to cite.

Carten, on the other hand, recommended continuing to fund the VNA, in light of the “unsettled state of healthcare in the United States,” adding that it’s not the right time to “impact seniors’ health care services” and “eliminate a popular department that does so much obvious good for our community,” according to an executive summary of the committee’s opinions and findings.

Since the VNA building was purchased with grant money, it is unclear what the penalty might be for closing it.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect an error in the subcommittee’s report. Finance board member Don Carten, who examined the VNA for the report, has publicly apologized for incorrectly reporting on the agency’s services to the joint boards, and Citizen’s News regrets the mistake it made, in turn, in its print edition.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I would like to add to the excellent information provided by Theresa Stieber RN, VNA Director. In addition to the services enumerated, the VNA’s contributions to Naugatuck go above and beyond what is required of the agency. The staff assembles and distributes holiday food baskets,provides families with children’s gifts,and ensures that no client is without a gift and a meal on the holidays.
    A number of residents are alone, or with family far away. The VNA assures that they have adequate food, medication, transportation,housekeeping services, and are safe in their homes. From my experience as a former employee of 17 years, I know of countless instances of errands run and favors done for clients—who are treated like family.Anyone who walks in the door with a need is assisted as much as is possible.
    From my personal (and unsatisfactory)experience as a client of an “outside” home care agency, and a family member’s employment in another, I know how exceptional Naugatuck VNA is. To lose their services would be a travesty for the citizens of Naugatuck.
    And may I add, those citizens would be better served if those in the decision-making process had some level of knowledge of that which they are evaluating.
    Sincerely, Carol Erlingheuser RN

  2. Misinformation Regarding the Naugatuck Visiting Nurses Association

    This letter is in response to the recent Citizen’s News Article of May 21, 2010, “Borough Spending Taxes to Rise.” Information regarding the Naugatuck Visiting Nurses Association (VNA) reported in the article is inaccurate. The Naugatuck VNA has been in operation for over 90 years and services adults over the age of eighteen (18) when referred to us by a licensed physician for skilled care. We admit patients for care with medical, surgical, rehabilitative and teaching needs. We do not do pediatric or solely psychiatric cases.

    According to Naugatuck VNA policies this skilled care is provided by a: registered nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, medical social worker and/or home health aide when ordered by a licensed physician. The Naugatuck VNA is state licensed, thereby, regulated by a multitude of statutes which include admission policies. Admission policy for the State of Connecticut to home health care can be found under the regulation: 19-13-D69. Services

    We service patients with Medicare, Medicaid, Private insurance and self pay. We have accreditation and deemed status as a Medicare approved agency through CHAP (Community Health Accreditation Program). Medicare covers persons over the age of 65 or those on disability. Medicare and Medicaid also have a multitude of statutes and admission is covered under the following regulation: § 484.18 Condition of participation: Acceptance of patients, plan of care, and medical supervision.

    The Naugatuck VNA has serviced residents of the Borough who have no insurance or funds. We also provide free physical therapy evaluations for cane use and home safety evaluations. We maintain a private pay bath aide service. Will other agencies provide this care?

    The Naugatuck VNA also maintains services to approximately 61 residents under the Home Care for Elders Program, a program to keep elders at home rather then in a skilled facility. Recent State of Connecticut legislation, “Money Follows the Person”, will provide funding for elders to return home to live rather then in a skilled nursing facility. The future health care initiatives are for home based care. Outpatient surgery and shorter hospitalizations also necessitate home care.

    The Naugatuck VNA will provide any information on policies or regulations to interested parties. We are a dedicated staff with longevity as employees of the Borough of Naugatuck.

    Sincerely,
    Theresa Stieber RN MS
    Director Naugatuck VNA (nurses@snet.net)

    State of CT. regulations found at: http://www.ct.gov/dph/lib/dph/agency_regulations/sections/pdfs/title_19._health_and_safety/phc/chapter_iv/19-33._home_health.pdf

    Medicare Regulations found at:
    http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_99/42cfr484_99.html

    Home Care for Elders Program found at:
    http://www.ct.gov/dss/cwp/view.asp?a=2353&q=305170

    Money Follows the Person found at:
    http://www.ct.gov/dss/cwp/view.asp?Q=414524&A=2345