Inyo County has big money problems. The tensions rose abruptly during a workshop when department heads differed over saving General Fund money and impacting people.
Health and Human Services officials made a presentation to the Supervisors on how some programs could be re-organized to save dollars. It all started with Assistant Health and Human Services Director Linda Benson. She introduced Anna Scott of Health and Human Services who described a possible plan for Toiyabe Indian Health Services to pick up some of the duties and costs related to jail inmates and medical needs.
Officials said jail inmate medical costs have the potential to climb very high, so plans to keep the lid on that kind of risk to the General Fund would make sense. Ms. Scott described Toiyabe as “a willing partner.”
Another area of potential savings, according to Ms. Scott, would come in the Public Administrator/ Public Guardian department. If the position of Deputy Public Administrator were to become vacant, that position might be eliminated for a savings of $83,000. Scott said there are other ways to restructure the Public Guardian portion of the department, transferring some of those duties to Social Services workers in Health and Human Services. Ms. Scott said this kind of scenario works in other counties and saves General Fund money.
Scott explained that a nurse will be hired soon and take over some of the Social Services employees’ work to free them up to handle Public Guardian work. The description of this trading of jobs got complicated. Supervisors’ questioned the health officials.
Patricia Barton, the elected Public Administrator/ Public Guardian, then said, “This whole scenario is more complicated than is being presented, with all due respect.” She said her department case manages on the spot. Things would be different under Health and Human Services. Said Barton, “There needs to be more information presented. It’s not just a fiscal consideration.”
County Administrator Kevin Carunchio spoke up abruptly and said a workshop on Barton’s caseload needs to be scheduled for next week. He said it was promised four months ago. Carunchio said the issue is reducing a General Fund position and having it paid for in the Health Department. Said Carunchio, “There’s some sandbagging going on here.” Ms. Barton apologized if he thought she was “sandbagging.” Said Barton, “I’m not offering resistance. I’m offering caution.”
Director of Health and Human Services, Jean Turner, said she shared Patricia Barton’s words of caution. She assured Barton that her department is not looking for more work. Turner said she was asked to look for ways to save General Fund money, and the State allows her department to spend money on Public Guardian duties within Health and Human Services.
Barton repeated that the proposal needs to be looked at in more depth. She said there are fiscal concerns but it needs to make sense.