Archive for Thursday, February 22, 2007

County OK’s EMS gear, department funding woes

February 22, 2007

The Leavenworth County Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved a purchase of 34 protective flash suits for the county's emergency medical services department and heard about funding problems in the Community Corrections department.

According to EMS director Jamie Miller, the suits will protect against flash fires and blood-borne pathogens that can be common at motor vehicle accidents and other special rescues that require extrication.

The suits include protective jackets, trousers, boots and helmets.

"We want all-inclusive gear," Miller said. "It's a safety concern for us. Right now our people are going out in cotton or nylon suits."

The equipment will be purchased at a cost of $1,097 per suit.

The commission also met with Community Corrections director Mikel Lovin in regards to a general funding crisis in the department.

The department is currently completely funded by the Kansas Department of Corrections. The Leavenworth County department received a $46,000 cut in funding last year from the state and, according to Lovin, has been forced to do more work with less staff.

"If we receive another cut up to or comparable to what we received last fiscal year, it's my opinion that we cannot continue to operate," Lovin said.

The onus then would fall on Leavenworth County, since the state requires each county to have a corrections program.

According to Lovin, the state formula used to determine funding has not allowed a true picture of the volume of clients handled in Leavenworth County.

He said that the department was looking for more effective behavioral solutions now, instead of just using urine analyses, house arrests and other, more general, parole measures.

The state formula determines funding by taking into account, on average, how many clients a county corrections department sees daily; however, credit is only given if the clients are prosecuted and convicted. Essentially, the county department is not receiving credit for pre-trials, unresolved cases, misdemeanors and juvenile offenses.

Lovin said funding levels in the past 15 years had been at $4,000 per client; now funding is somewhere around $1,000 per client because the overall pool of funding has diminished.

The commission agreed the main problem in this case lies at the state level.

"Unless the state formula is changed, we'll continue to have problems," Commission-er Clyde Graeber said.

"It is not exactly what I would call an equitable formula."

Lovin's request to move the records clerk's authorization from level two to level four and his request to add an additional level eight position was approved by the commissioners, 3-0.

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