Polk creating own health district 

Published 12:16 pm Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Commissioners approve breaking off from Rutherford Polk McDowell Health  


COLUMBUS—Polk County is officially creating its own health district.  

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Commissioners met Monday and heard from county manager Marche Pittman and Consolidated Human Services Agency Director Joshua Kennedy about breaking off from the Rutherford Polk McDowell Health District.  

Polk County joined with Rutherford County in the 1970s, with McDowell County joining later. Previous to the merger, Polk ran its own health district, which includes all health department services as well as environmental services, such as well and septic permits and restaurant inspections.  

Kennedy said Polk County expects to allocate $238,562 to the Rutherford Polk McDowell Health District in 2020 and by 2022, expects to allocate more than $280,000 to the district.  

Polk’s standalone health department is expected to cost the county $236,850 in 2020 and by 2022, the county expects to save $63,000, according to Kennedy.  

Commissioners directed Pittman and Kennedy a few months ago to study creating its own health district. The move came after well and septic permits through the joint health district were seven weeks behind schedule. Commissioners heard from realtors recently that selling homes was difficult because of the delay in permits.  

The proposed timeline for the county to create its own health district includes recruiting and hiring 8 employees and to launch the new health department in July. Polk County’s new fiscal year begins July 1.  

Commissioners heard from health department nurse Anna Nelon during citizen comments. Nelon said she is concerned about the county running its own health department, saying she’s looked over the report and feels like there are items that are not being addressed. Nelon said none of the county employees or commissioners have come to the health department to speak to employees about this and she feels like the county is focusing on environmental health only.  

Commissioner Myron Yoder said commissioners want to close the gaps.  

“I feel like we can do this better when it’s standing alone in the county,” Yoder said. “We feel we can make this better.”  

Yoder said Polk’s needs have change and we have sufficient people in the county who can take care of the clinical side.  

Polk County is talking with Blue Ridge Health to make the transition for many of the services.  

Commissioners unanimously approved Monday to withdraw from its regional health district to form a Polk County Health Department. The new health department will become effective on July 1.