By Curt Yeomans
Clayton County residents will have one less day each month to receive medical assistance from the county's board of health.
The Clayton County Board of Health approved closing its offices on the last Friday of each month to meet the 3.5 percent budget reduction requested of all state agencies by Gov. Sonny Perdue. The board has an $8.1 million budget.
Closing the offices on the last Friday of each month will save $196,000 through the remainder of the fiscal year. That translates to $15,599.11 per month.
"I feel that this is the most efficient and prudent manner to handle the budgetary crisis that the agency is facing right now," said Alpha Fowler Bryan, health director for the Clayton County district.
"This was not an easy decision to make. We definitely did not want to implement a reduction in force where employees would lose their jobs."
Veronda Griffin, spokesperson for the Clayton County Board of Health, said the decision to close one day a month came at a special meeting Oct. 23. The State Personnel Administration recently gave its blessing, Griffin added. The change affects 122 employees.
Griffin also said closing the offices for one day a month will count as staff furloughs since employees lose a day of work. The change is expected to last until Fiscal Year 2009 ends on June 30, 2009.
"We're hoping things will be back to normal after that," said Griffin. "We just want the public to know about this change, so they can plan ahead and be prepared for it."
The Clayton County Board of Health operates two facilities. The main office is located at 1117 Battle Creek Road, Jonesboro, and there is an Adolescent Health Center at 685 Forest Parkway, Forest Park. The facilities provide immunizations, and health-education services.
Health care is affected since local departments fall under the jurisdiction of the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Public Health.
If the state's budget situation does not improve before Fiscal Year 2010 begins on July 1, 2009, Griffin said the board of health would most likely respond by adding more staff furlough days, although "the worst case scenario would probably include layoffs."
The board of health announced the following dates when its facilities will be closed: Nov. 26-Nov. 28 (for Thanksgiving); Dec. 24-Dec. 26 (for Christmas); Jan. 30, 2009; Feb. 27, 2009; March 27, 2009; April 24, 2009; May 29, 2009, and June 26, 2009.
"We are feeling the affects of the economy all across Clayton County," said Eldrin Bell, chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, and the board of health, in a statement released Friday afternoon. "We just need to do what we have to do and make sure that the citizens of this county are taken care of."
Hayla Hall, spokesperson for the LaGrange Health District, which includes the Henry County Health Department, said furloughs are not planned for that district, but a hiring freeze means vacancies for two environmental health inspectors, a registered nurse (R.N.) and a licensed practical nurse (LPN) will go unfilled until there is enough money for those positions.
"We're looking to generate additional income through the programs we offer," said Hall.