By Jennifer Henion
Triplicate staff writer
Del Norte County will take over an in-home care program once managed by the state but not without grave misgivings.
"It already costs the county $550,000. That's before the change, and it's going up every year by about 15 percent," said Gary Blatnick, Director of the county's Department of Health and Social Services.
At issue is the In Home Supportive Services through which elderly and disabled individuals receive help at home from domestic workers rather than having to live in a care facility. The program was handed to counties in an attempt to close the gap in a $34 billion state budget deficit.
Before this month, the state administered the program and issued the paychecks to domestic workers, then billed the county for 25 percent of the cost to pay the workers.
As Blatnick said, that 25 percent has equalled about $550,000 per year.
Now, the state has passed laws to require individual counties to screen workers, develop a referral list, provide legal counsel, administration and personnel services and pay a bargaining team to negotiate wages with the employees.
In essence, the county, as the new public authority, is to become the domestic worker's employer of record, bringing all of the administrative duties and costs with it.
"Unfortunately, there's little choice. I've let them (the state) know this is not voluntary," Blatnick told the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
Governor Davis proposes to pay the county back by increasing the state sales tax by 1 percent and routing that money to the county to run IHSS.
Blatnick and county administrative officer Jeannine Galatioto said that money will not cover the costs.
"The governor's proposal is to remove the state share of the costs it pays now and replace it with the new sales-tax revenue. But will that cover the growth of the program?
"The need goes up as the population ages," Blatnick said.
The supervisors will serve as the Del Norte County In-Home Supportive Services Public Authority and meet regularly under the Brown Act to oversee the program.
All of the boardmembers and Blatnick said they feel the new burden is unfair, yet the service the program provides is necessary.
"We will be sanctioned by the state by not setting up by April 1," Blatnick told the board.
"This is just one example of what we have to deal with," from the governor's latest proposals, he added.