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Belmont County Health Department Seeks To Recoup $80,000 in Annual State Funding

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Belmont County Health Department is attempting to recoup the loss of a state contract that had provided $80,000 in annual funding.

Speaking at the Belmont County Board of Health meeting Monday, Linda Mehl, director of nursing, said the department didn’t receive a Personal Responsibility Education Program grant for 2020-21. Instead, the Ohio Department of Youth Services awarded a two-year contract to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.

The state agency also reconfigured the program’s regions, reducing the total number of regions from nine to five, and made fewer grants, she said. Belmont County is now part of a 19-county district.

Mehl said she plans to meet with Nationwide Children’s officials on Dec. 17 to suggest that the hospital subcontract with the health department to provide PREP services locally. Nationwide Children’s Hospital now handles the program for two large districts in central and eastern Ohio.

She hopes that income from a subcontract would offset at least part of the lost funds.

Mehl also believes it would be beneficial to Nationwide Children’s Hospital to subcontract with the health department’s trained personnel rather than having to hire and train new workers for the program.

PREP funds are used to provide preventive education for youth in foster care and the juvenile justice system, she said. The program seeks to reduce the rate of teen pregnancy and to prevent incidence of sexually-transmitted diseases.

A previous contract from the Ohio Department of Youth Services totaled $180,000 annually. Of that sum, Belmont County got $80,000 a year to administer its portion of the program and subcontracted with health departments in Perry and Noble counties, which each received $50,000 annually, Mehl said.

The grant money was used to pay a portion of the salaries of Mehl and two part-time employees in Belmont County.

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