Steuben to study health care services

Mary Perham

More changes are ahead in the health services Steuben County provides to its residents.

The Legislature’s Health Services Committee will explore ways to reduce the cost of the county’s mental health and long-term care services.

With the sale of its in-home public health certificate now pending, Steuben is now looking at how other counties handle mental health programs mandated by the state and subsidized in part by county taxpayers.

Mental health services are based in Bath, with some services also located in the cities of Corning and Hornell.

Three or four other counties are now looking at outside agencies to handle their mental services, and most counties in the state already provide the services through other agencies, county Administrator Mark Alger said recently.

The number of services and clients affected by any change is significant.

Office of Community Services Director Hank Chapman told the committee the adult mental health clinic’s sees an average of 1,000 clients annually. Steuben’s drug and alcohol clinic averages 400 clients a year, while children’s and family mental health care covers an average of just under 800 people annually, Chapman told the committee.

Other OCS services include day treatment for 75 to 80 people daily and  ongoing, as-needed services to inmates at the county jail, at an average of 1,200 annually.

The county also is looking at ways to absorb clients from St. James Mercy Hospital, which announced recently it was closing its day services program at the Aquinas Center, Chapman said.

Another longtime service for county residents under scrutiny this year is the county’s 105-bed nursing home, located on Mount Washington.

Committee members expect to meet soon with consultant John Kropsky to learn what their options are for the three-year-old facility.

The new health care facility was built to replace the 40-year-old nursing home nearby in the hopes the state would make good on its promises to pay higher rates for residents there.

However, the facility expects to be $1.9 million shy of its $13.2 million operating budget this year, and the level of state aid the county can expect is prone to changes.

However, county officials said any sale of the new facility will likely be hindered by the building’s $15.4 million bond, which the county now expects to pay off in 2025. Steuben’s payment on the bond, with interest, amounts to $1.4 million annually.

In addition, a state survey indicated there is no need for long-term health care expansion in Steuben, and no new licenses are being issued, Alger said.