Consolidation talks between Youngstown and the Mahoning County health board appear to have stalled, perhaps permanently.
In a June 6 letter to Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone and the city health department, Patricia Sweeney, commissioner of the Mahoning County District Board of Health, suggested that contracting for services “may be far less stressful and perhaps more efficient when current needs exist.”
Sweeney noted that the county health board provides all public health services for Canfield, Campbell and Struthers, and wants to do the same thing for Youngstown.
The county health board and Dave Mannion, chairman of the Mahoning County General Health District Advisory Council, that board’s governing body, have “expressed a sincere interest in working with the city of Youngstown to contract to provide public health services for all city residents,” she said.
Sammarone said, however, the goal of talks between the city and county health board over the past two years has been consolidation.
“Our goal should remain, as it has always been, to achieve full consolidation,” he said in an Aug. 2 letter replying to Sweeney’s missive.
The city health district is open to discussion of expanding its services via contract, as has been done in the past. But for that, we don’t need consolidation, Sammarone said.
“The people deserve a concerted effort to promote achievement of a more-efficient means of providing service,” the mayor said.
The Ohio Department of Health may force a consolidation — who knows, he said.
The idea of consolidation of the city and county health departments is not new. It was brought up in 1977 by city council, but this latest effort is the furthest it has gone, Sammarone said.
“Hopefully, the county will see that if something isn’t done locally, the state may force consolidation. But for now, there is no use continuing to meet about consolidation unless the county board is interested,” the mayor said.
In the meantime, Erin Bishop, city health commissioner, said she and her board will start focusing on the accreditation process.
The state has mandated that health departments have everything for accreditation in place by 2018 and be fully accredited by 2020. “If we don’t become accredited, it could negatively affect our funding,” she said.
“We’ve been very much a part of the consolidation talks, and we’re willing to move forward. But if it is not what the county wants, we can’t keep talking about it. It’s been two years,” Bishop added.