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Pressure for state to drop incentive fund grant system

July 22, 2010
OSSIPEE — Pressure from county officials from all over the state, including Carroll County, has convinced the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to drop an unpopular change to the Incentive Fund grant system.

Incentive Fund grants are meant to encourage cities, towns, and counties to provide positive activities and after-school programs for children that provide an alternative to out-of-home placement. Each of New Hampshire's 10 counties has its own community-based panel that decides which organizations should receive aid. In Carroll County, grants are customarily given to organizations such as Ossipee Children's Fund and School's Out –an after school program.

Until late last week, DHHS had been requiring all of the community panels to hold their meetings at the New Hampshire Hospital campus in Concord on the week of Sept. 30. Applicants for incentive funds would have also had to travel to Concord to explain why they should get funding. Previously, Community Panels would meet in their respective county. The change in the meetings' location to Concord came in a memo dated July 8 from John Harrington of the Bureau of Community and Family Support.

"We believe that holding applicant presentations in a central location, especially for statewide programs, will benefit the applicant and aid in the timely distribution of grant awards," wrote Harrington explaining the reason for the change.

But Carroll County Delegation Chair Betsey Patten (R-Moultonborough) was among those to protest DHHS's decision to hold the meetings in Concord. She responded to Harrington's letter in a strongly worded e-mail. Patten requested that DHHS rethink the central location idea and allow panel members and applicants to meet in their respective county.

"It simply makes no time or economic sense for a majority of committee members to have to travel to Concord from distant locations, some with a three hour drive each way, for a five to six day schedule," wrote Patten. "This doesn't seem like a valuable use of resources."

Carroll County Commissioners also criticized the DHHS at their meeting on Wednesday, July 14. Commission Chairman David Sorensen said he sent a letter of complaint to Harrington, as did the Director of the New Hampshire Association of Counties, and several other officials from counties around the state.

"They are trying to save money at our expense," said Sorensen. "This is ridiculous."

Then on July 16, Harrington reversed course. In an e-mail, he told county officials that the Community Panel meetings would be held in their respective counties — not in Concord.

Harrington's July 16 e-mail states applications for incentive funds would be posted on DHHS' Web site: www.dhhs.state.nh.us/DHHS/DHHS_SITE/default.htm. The deadline is Aug. 31. Community Panel meetings are scheduled to take place in September.

In other county business:

— Carroll County Health and Home Care Services (CCCHHCS) is in the process of merging or creating an affiliation with the Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice Care Services of Northern Carroll County, said CCCHHCS Clinical director Diane DeChape and board member Anne Getchell. CCCHHCS provides non-medical homemaking services, such as cleaning, meal preparation, and errands, for people who require those services. CCCHHCS makes over 21,000 home visits per year —equating to 40,000 hours of service. Financial consultants suggested an affiliation could help both agencies survive the economic downturn. Also, a merger makes sense because both have similar mission statements and serve some of the same clients. They would benefit from an economy of scale — in such matters as billing and licensing, said Getchell.

Martin Lord Osman
Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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