Adult care homes in Buncombe County remain a concern

Here’s a few highlights from the April 19 meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. Mountain Xpress will have a full report in the April 25 issue:

County health rankings are on the right track, but Harris says there’s still room for improvement:
Buncombe County Health director Gibbie Harris gave a brief presentation about how Buncombe County compared to other counties in the state according to recently released County Health Rankings. The rankings, conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, measure health outcomes (morality and morbidity) and health factors (health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors, and physical environment).  These rankings have been done for the last three years.

Three years ago, Buncombe County ranked 25 in North Carolina for health outcomes. This year, it moved up to 14th.  “You have to remember though, that’s 14th in a state that ranks 32nd. We still have work to do.”

Areas of improvement include adult smoking, which Harris credits partly to work done for smoke-free bars and restaurants. Harris also noted motor vehicle crashes have declined and sexually transmitted infection rates are going down slowly.

One area that is difficult for Buncombe County is physical environment. Harris explains this is due to how the factors are measured. “They look at chain grocery stores and how far people are from those stores. It differs from folks in rural areas and urban areas, but the reality is they don’t take into account farmers markets, tailgate markets, corner groceries we have out in rural communities. So, we will never do very well in that category,” she said.

However, in the morbidity category, Buncombe County ranks higher than the national benchmark in all listed factors (poor or fair health, poor physical health days, poor mental health days, and low birthweight).

Sheriff Van Duncan talks highlights of annual report:
The Board of Commissioners also heard a presentation from Sheriff Van Duncan about the Buncombe County Sheriff Department’s comprehensive annual report. The 26-page document is available online. Some of the highlights from his presentation and this report include:
• The patrol squad received 58, 684 calls for service in 2011 compared to 57,198 in 2010. Response time for these calls declined from 9.15 minutes in 2010 to 9.03 in 2011.

• The civil process division of the department served 27,375 court papers in 2011 compared to 26,758 in 2010.

• Criminal arrest warrants declined from 10,595 in 2010 to 9,972 in 2011.

• The Buncombe County Anti-Crime Task Force seized $3.9 million in street-level narcotics in 2011

• The number of bookings has increased to 15,000 people, up from 14,488 in 2010.

Adult care homes remain a major concern:
The presentation of the night focused on the impact of adult care homes in Buncombe County. Unlike nursing homes, adult-care homes come from the State-County Special Assistance Program and Medicaid.  And nursing homes usually provide more medically intensive care and are only regulated by the federal government.

With 87, Buncombe County has the most adult-care homes of any other county in the state. And, in these adult-care homes, social worker Angie Pittman says that 50 percent of the residents are not from Buncombe County. 

The presentation spanned the fiscal and human impact of adult-care homes and was presented by a panel including social workers, a lawyer, Sheriff Van Duncan, and others. The presentation highlighted three different adult care homes but did not identify them by name. One presenter, Wendy Sause of Community Care of Western North Carolina, examined the total Medicaid expenses three of these facilities incur. Of Buncombe County’s total Medicaid expenditures, almost 30 percent of the county’s total expenditures occurred in the three highlighted adult care homes, with $3,366,359.35.

However, presenters argued that this issue gets complicated quickly when many of the people who are admitted into these homes have some kind of mental illness — conditions adult-care homes were not set up to address.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice condemned the housing of N.C.‘s mentally ill in adult-care homes, and even mentioned a Candler adult-care home in its 16-page report.

After hearing the more than hour-long presentation, County Commissioners were asked to follow-up with state legislators on this issue. The commissioners did not take an official vote, but agreed that they would certainly follow-up to do something about this issue.

In other business:
• Commissioners authorized a resolution authorizing the County Manager to acquire approximately 30 acres of land (Located on Desert Drive in Arden)

• Commissioners approved a resolution related to a budget amendment of $34,000

• Commissioners approved a resolution making the opening and maintenance of Court Plaza as a public road

• Commissioners approved a resolution to an approval process related to hiring pyrotechnical experts for fireworks displays

• Commissioners authorized the County Manager to accept a grant of $280,500 from NC Parks & Recreation Trust Fund

Regarding proclamations:

•Commissioners voted 5-0 to declare May Stroke Awareness Month.

•Commissioners voted 5-0 to declare May Motorcyle Awareness Month.

•Commissioners voted 5-0 to declare May Foster Care Awareness Month.

•Commissioners voted 5-0 to declare May 3, 2012 as Special Olympics Day. The Buncombe County Special Olympic Spring Games will involve more than 500 athletes. The event will be held at T.C. Roberson High School.

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