ITHACA, N.Y.—Kicking off the monthly Health and Human Services Committee meeting was an update about settlement payments that Tompkins County will be receiving from the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) for opioid recovery and prevention programs. The settlements stem from lawsuits resolved late last year regarding pharmaceutical companies’ knowledge of the harmful impacts of their products.

The county is set to receive two payments totaling $191,765 by the end of March. Of the total, approximately $110,000 will be part of an ongoing payment of the same amount annually for the next 18 years, and the remaining $82,000 is a one-time lump sum payment through Endo Health Solutions.

New Tompkins County Administrator Lisa Holmes said that while half of the money can be spent on any use within the counties, the other half must be used for opioid treatment and prevention programs. Holmes also said that she is still waiting on the finalized stipulations from NYSAC regarding how the funds can be used.

Cindy Wilcox will be taking over for Kathy Schlather as executive director for the Human Services Coalition effective April 11, 2022. Wilcox is currently HSC’s director of leadership development and consulting services, and Schlather will be assisting with the transition before retiring.

The next agenda item was a presentation from Lisa Monroe from the Tompkins County Office for the Aging (COFA) on aging in place with the help of home health aides. The presentation discussed the different home care models including Certified Home Health Agencies (CHHAs), Licensed Home Care Services Agencies (LHCSAs), non-licensed companion care like Comfort Keepers and Home Instead, Long Term Home Health Care Programs (LTHHCPs), Expanded In-home Services for the Elderly program (EISEP), Managed Long-Term Care like iCircle, Fidelis, Nascentia, which are the program models available in Tompkins County.

The program within the county is looking to include fair pay for home care, 40% of whom “currently live in or near poverty due to chronically low wages” according to Monroe’s slides.

“Home health aide recognition is something we’ve been working on through our Long Term Care Committee,” Monroe said. “Recently we’ve expanded it to address the complexities. There’s layers to all parts of this. […] TST Boces and Home Health Care have participated in coming up with solutions. It’s not just lack of aides, lack of training, lack of pay. There’s a class that’s supposed to be in progress to train home health aides that’s been delayed twice already because they can’t find a teacher to do the training. Everywhere you go, there’s something.”

Because the county only contracts with two agencies for more intensive home care, the COFA is in the interviewing stage of hiring two more individuals to provide personal care services for its case-managed clients.

Following the presentation, the committee unanimously approved a budget adjustment for the purchase of vehicles for care providers to use. The vehicles will be purchased with funding from the Expanded In-home Services for the Elderly (EISEP) program as well as New York State Office for the Aging unmet needs funding, which comes to the county with the purpose of addressing clients sitting on waiting lists for care.

The next topic discussed was to reaffirm support of a single-payer approach of the New York Health Act, which passed 3 to 2 and will move onto the State Senate.

Public Health Director Frank Kruppa announced a new partnership with Family and Children’s Services of Ithaca and $300,000 of one-time funding for community outreach expansion to rural parts of the county for mental health crises and crisis response. The program will have a coordinator program that connects people in need with services and can help with paperwork and transport to appointments. Kruppa said that Lansing, Groton and parts within the Town of Ithaca were identified as primary areas for expansion based on well-checks completed over the past two years.

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. She has covered a wide range of topics since joining the news organization in November 2021. She can be reached at zhessler@ithacavoice.com...