LACONIA — Two Belknap County commissioners find themselves on different sides of what they agree is a looming crisis in care for the elderly in Belknap County.
Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), who last month told members of the Belknap County Convention’s Executive Committee that the county should explore the possible sale of the Belknap County Nursing Home, reiterated his position when the commission met Wednesday morning.
“This doesn’t have to be a county function,” said Burchell, who said that nonprofit entities should be encouraged to look at taking over the nursing home.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said he doesn’t think that privatizing the nursing home is the answer to a growing elderly population in the county.
“The nursing home is needed. It is a county responsibility,” said Taylor, who maintained that partnering with nonprofits to find ways to keep people in their own homes longer is something that should be explored.
He said it costs $22,000 a year to provide home care services compared to $85,000 a year for nursing home care.
Burchell said that the county is “downhill from a very complex funding formula” with regard to Medicaid reimbursements which will be changing in future years, which puts it in a position of responsibility without authority.
Currently, county taxpayers not only pay for a share of Belknap County Nursing home costs not covered by Medicaid reimbursements, but also pay $6.1 million in the Health and Human Services line in the county budget which represents payments made to the state of New Hampshire for county residents who are in private nursing homes and who are covered by Medicaid.
That responsibility would still be on the county’s shoulders even if the nursing home were sold, as would be the unreimbursed costs for those who remained in the facility if it became a private nursing home.
County Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) thanked his fellow commissioners for their comments but did not weigh in with an opinion.
Taylor said he thinks the county is uniquely positioned to deal with care of the elderly and the drug crisis of heroin overdoses and should look at doing something about both of them in the year ahead.
He suggested that the Belknap County Sheriff’s Department would do well to follow the city of Laconia’s example when it comes to handling drug situations and suggested that the department add a position similar to what Laconia police currently have.
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