Henry County Board approves funding for long awaited projects

Beth Welbers
Geneseo Republic

Henry County Board met Thursday October 21st.

Duane Stevens of the Henry Stark Health Department made a presentation to the Board regarding a proposed Behavioral Health Expansion.  He is asking for a total of $459,000 over two years. This is for the addition of mental health professionals and placement of them within the community.

The proposal is considered seed money for a project that incorporates mental health services to be made more accessible to residents. Stevens referred to it as "taking services to the people."  He felt that after two years, the program would be able to support itself.

Stevens has been working with the judicial department to add services to domestic violence and substance abuse offenders by partnering with the probation department, and having a therapist at the courthouse.  He stated that it will increase the rate of showing up for the counseling sessions.  

First Choice adds to Behavioral Health services

Stevens also pointed to the fact that nursing home residents and the farm community could also benefit from the increase in behavioral health benefits. He felt that those are an under served segment of the community.  He has also contacted numerous schools within the county, and they are agreeable to having therapists in the schools.  "Guidance counselors are not therapists." pointed out Stevens, "Schools would have regular schedules with the therapists,  until the caseloads are built. "

Currently the Henry County Health Department has two professionals, a Counselor and a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner on staff, as well as one clerical employee.  Telehealth and telepsych sessions are available for clients who are unable to meet in person.  Stevens did not indicate how many providers would added to the program with the additional funding.

The Board did not vote on the expansion request at this time.

Jeff Orton, head of the Transportation Committee was pleased to announce that an agreement had been reached to begin preliminary engineering work on the north end of what is known as the Galva-Atkinson Blacktop, or the intersection of County Highway 5 and Route 80, where the road is seriously deteriorated.  $105,271 was approved for the study.  No indication of funding towards the project by the State was made.

A quote of $371,115 was approved for Information Services to recable the Courthouse and Jail. The fiber optic cable and the closed circuit cables will be pulled at the same time, saving the county $75,000 by doing it together.  Rosemary Rathjen indicated a possible grant might return $200,000 of the costs. She also indicated that the county's main server has been given a more secure place within the courthouse instead of its' previous home in the basement.

The County will be re-vamping its website, partnering with the Health Department which will save an additional $15,000.  The last upgrades to the website was more than 10 years ago.  A $17,000 grant for this project is available, and it also qualifies for ARPA funding.

Mark Burton announced that the Health Department will be scheduling Moderna boosters. 

The County will be hiring two new deputies in November, as well as it has secured two positions at the Police Academy.  The Sheriff's office will be at full staff at that point. State's Attorney Cathy Runty will also be at full staff shortly with some new additions to her office. 

Board Chairman Kippy Breeden announced that the County's portion of property owners tax bill will be going down in the next year. This will be the third year in a row.

Henry County Courthouse