County budget adds help with opioid crisis

County budget adds help with opioid crisis
June 01
04:00 2017

Forsyth County commissioners unanimously passed a budget on Thursday, May 25, that included, among other things, eight new paramedics to help with increased Emergency Services (EMS) demand, including opioid overdoses.

The new positions were part of a $426.5 million budget that goes into effect on July 1.  Forsyth EMS Director Dan Ozimek said that his department, which has 157 paramedics currently, has been using overtime to meet all the calls for emergency service. He said a growing population with an increasing amount of older residents is causing the increase as is the nationwide opioid epidemic.

“We’re averaging five or six overdoses a day and we’ve had days where we’ve had as many as 14 or 15 in a day,” Ozimek told The Chronicle. “Just that type of call alone has impacted our need to cover capacity.”

The budget originally had four additional EMS positions, with four more added last Thursday, which cost $167,049. That and other additions from the commissioners’ budget workshops added $6 million to the county manager’s recommended $420 million budget. The additional money comes from revenue created by the portion of property taxes associated with the bonds along with revenue increases and expenditure adjustments. The budget still lowers the tax rate slightly from73.1 cent cent per $100 in property to 72.35 cent because most property values rose in this year’s reappraisal.

The budget was hailed by commissioners.

“This is the best budget I’ve seen since I’ve been on the board,” said Everette Witherspoon, who was first elected in 2010.

Witherspoon praised the $338,000 in funding added to the budget to maintain the Nurse-Family Partnership. The program, whose grant funding was coming to an end, lets nurses visit first time mothers living in poverty. The county plans to seek further partial funding from Kate B. Reynolds Charitable trust.

The budget also funded the Cleveland Avenue Dental Center, which mainly serves Medicaid patients and is expected to lose $326,293 this fiscal year, while county staff looks for ways the clinic can sustain itself.

Fleming El-Amin, the newest county commissioner, said he was glad that the $25,000 grant for the Urban League’s mental health education efforts were in the mental health funding the county allocated to Cardinal Innovations Healthcare. County staff had recommended cutting the grant, but commissioners asked for it to be included after the Urban League produced its data on the program’s benefits. The Coalition for Drug Abuse Prevention, which gets $60,000, was also added back in. These two additions were paid for out of the existing mental health funding so they didn’t add to the overall budget.

While county employees didn’t get a proposed 401(k) increase, they did get the addition of two more paid holidays: Veterans Day and a half day on Christmas Eve, which will bring the county Christmas holiday to a total of three days. Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt lauded the new days off and the additional EMS workers. She said county staff did a great job with the overall budget.

“I do think that the staff believes that the citizens of Forsyth County deserve the very best service,” said Whisenhunt. “I also believe that each of you recognize who pays the bills and I appreciate your respect and your consideration for the taxpayer.”

About Author

Todd Luck

Todd Luck

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors