GILMAN — Iroquois County Board Chairman Rod Copas stopped short of saying he will push for the dissolution of the Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department if the agency moves forward with its controversial plan to start providing home-health services across the Indiana border.
But Copas is not denying the possibility either.
"Everything is on the table at this point," the rural Gilman man said Monday. "We are not going into Indiana. I can tell you that. It is not going to happen."
Rumors that the health department may be closed down have generated a barrage of questions from health department employees, their clients and taxpayers recently, according to a news release from the health department.
The board of health has called a special meeting for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the Gilman-Danforth District Library, 715 N. Maple St., Gilman.
During the meeting, public comments will be taken, followed by a vote of the board of health on the "Indiana home health issue," the release said.
According to Copas, the majority of the Iroquois County Board disagrees with the health department's plan to contract with a home-health care provider that would serve residents of Newton and Benton counties in Indiana.
Iroquois County Board members' main concern is that the health department, which receives about 20 percent of its budget from property taxes in Ford and Iroquois counties, should not be legally allowed to spend money generated in its bi-county jurisdiction on services provided outside of the two counties.
Ford-Iroquois Public Health Administrator Doug Corbett, on the other hand, said last fall that he considers the department's decision a "done deal" despite the county board's concerns.
Copas said Monday that if there is "a continued effort to go into Indiana" by the health department, the Iroquois County Board will try to contest it — and dissolving the health department could be one way to do that.
"We're just at a point where we can't go into Indiana. We're not going to. We're not comfortable with it," Copas said.
Unlike Copas, Rick Bowen, chairman of the Ford County Board, has not spoken out against the idea of the health department expanding some services into the two Indiana counties. He said in October that he liked the idea that "we are taking the blinders off and thinking outside of the box."
In addition to the home-health services, the health department board has approved entering into a contract with Health Chek/Health Coach Systems, based in Watseka, for the health department to provide employee wellness coaching in Indiana as well as throughout Central Illinois, Corbett said.
Corbett has said both services would be provided in Indiana for a fee charged to those receiving the services, so the programs would pay for themselves with no impact on local tax revenue. The fee could even generate revenue, making the health department less reliant on property taxes, he said.