S.E. Kansas organization makes pitch to take over health department

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

MOUND CITY – A senior official with the Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Department (SEKMCHD) made a pitch to the Linn County Commission on Tuesday, Sept. 7, about having Linn County rejoin the multi-county system that it abandoned in 2006.


Administrator and Health Officer Becky Johnson told commissioners that she thought that since Linn County Health Department Administrator Tisha Coleman was leaving, this might be a good time to talk with Linn County.


However, early in the presentation, Commissioner Jim Johnson said he asked Becky Johnson to make the presentation.


Linn County belonged to SEKMCHD from its inception in 1971 until 2006. Originally Linn County and Anderson County had belonged to a Bi-County Health Department. Later, Allen, Bourbon and Woodson counties joined with them.

When SEKMCHD first began and up until at least 2006, counties were charged a percent of their mill levy to belong, Becky Johnson said. Currently, a specific dollar amount is being asked from each county – varying from $31,000 to $115,000 – to assist their county health department, she added.


She said SEKMCHD offers more than 70 services through their health departments. These include family planning, KAN Be Healthy screenings, school physicals, adult physicals, immunization, blood pressure and blood glucose screenings, referrals, Healthy Start home visitor WIC, breastfeeding education and counseling, STD testing and treatment, lab draws, disease investigation and child care licensing.


Johnson said that SEKMCHD currently holds the childcare licensing grant for Linn County and contracts with their dietitian for WIC. She said that if a county does not apply for a local childcare or WIC grant, another county may apply and that has been the case for childcare licensing for Linn County.


Johnson told the commission that SEKMCHD shares one medical director, health officer-administrator, regional public health emergency preparedness administrator, accountant, and billing clerk. Each office has one nurse and one clerk.


She said that SEKMCHD has a home visitor that covers Allen and Anderson Counties, and one that covers Bourbon and Woodson. The system also has a nurse that is the WIC coordinator and there is also a dietitian.


During the pandemic, they have been able to maintain three temporary staff to assist with schools and long-term cares for assisting with COVID-19 issues.


Commission Chair Rick James asked if her proposal would be to take over the Linn County Health Department building and facilities and staff and everything.


She replied that her meeting that morning with commissioners had been on such short notice that she would have to discuss it more with her board.


James asked if she would get rid of the employees that are currently employed at the Pleasanton facility.


Johnson said she would try to us them as much as she could. She said she would have to take a good look at what Linn County has. Most of the SEKMCHD health departments are run by one nurse and one clerk.


She told James it just depended on what is needed for Linn County. She said she could see some rearranging and also sharing of staff between counties.


James asked if she was going to make a proposal. Johnson said that since it was short notice, she did not have one ready but would be making one.


James said that the commission would check with their attorney to consider their options.


According to Linn County Clerk David Lamb, the Linn County Health Department is staffed with eight employees, five full-time.


The budget for the Linn County Health Department presently is $407,020 with $217,587 coming from grants and $189,433 from county taxes. Some of these grants are recurring, but all are applied or reapplied for by Coleman.

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