Commissioners expected to approve joining new state health program

Kosciusko County Courthouse.
By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — It appears the Kosciusko County Commissioners are poised to opt into a new state health initiative that could bring millions of new dollars to the county.

On Tuesday, County Commissioners Brad Jackson and Cary Groninger said they plan to vote yes at the next commissioners meeting on Aug. 1 in support of opting into the new state program.

Those two votes assure passage. The third commissioner, Bob Conley did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

The state program is viewed as a huge expansion of health services and will provide Kosciusko County with an estimated $2.7 million in new funding over the next two years.

The county health board made the recommendation Monday.

With the anticipated approval, Kosciusko County will join a majority of other counties choosing to join the program.

The program was championed by Gov. Eric Holcomb during this year’s General Assembly and will provide $225 million in new funding across the state.

Jackson said legislators warmed up to it after language asserting state controls were removed.

Groninger said he thinks the local expansion will rely on an advisory council that will help develop a strategy and that at least one person — maybe more — will need to be hired.

It also appears much of the first year will involve developing a long-term plan.

The future money is yet another infusion of funds from the federal government or the state of Indiana in recent years that has left local governments with opportunities — but also more work, decision making and oversight that comes with the new programs.

On top of the future state money, local leaders have been given at least two rounds of federal covid money (CARES Act and ARPA) and opioid money from a court settlement.

On top of the economic recovery money, another $30 million — and possibly much more — has been made available from the state to boost the orthopedic industry.

That’s perhaps left some local conservative officeholders with misgivings about participating in new funding opportunities.

At the same time, it’s hard to pass up.

“If I could vote on it from the state level, I would not fund it,” Jackson said. “I think it’s an excessive amount of money to increase that much that fast. Throwing money probably isn’t always the answer.”

Groninger added: “None of us want to see the state continue to spend all our tax dollars, but at the same token, it’s already been approved. They’re going to disperse the money —  it’s just whether you get your piece of it.”

Once the county opts in, officials will need to draft a plan by the end of August outlining in broad terms how they intend to use the money.