Wausau Mayor Rob Mielke on Wednesday hand-delivered a resolution to Marathon County Administrator Brad Karger urging the county to resolve its differences with North Central Health Care, days before the county board determines the agency's fate.
The Wausau resolution, approved Tuesday by the city council, commends county leaders for its "willingness to explore new and more effective ways to provide vital services" in mental health, addiction services and nursing care for the elderly, but strongly supports the status quo. The county since January has been considering whether to sever its longstanding tri-county agreement with NCHC in favor of establishing a human services department or contracting for individual services.
But Michael Loy, the city's former human resources director and now interim CEO of NCHC, says terminating the tri-county agreement is a mistake that would shutter the agency.
"I admire the county board for wanting more and pushing us to do better," Loy says. "But now is the time to move forward so we can continue to provide services and become a beacon of hope for the community."
The instability of the past year caused by the potential change in services has created uncertainty among those receiving care, their families and current employees at the facility, according to the city's resolution. Also complicating matters: terminating or significantly altering the county's relationship with NCHC could end the new psychiatric residency program through the Medical College of Wisconsin, Loy says.
Karger says an entirely new plan is in the works that would withdraw the county's motion to terminate the tri-county agreement. Under the new plan, his office would begin working out a new agreement with NCHC that would add accountability and lay out clear expectations and priorities. That agreement, which also requires approval by Lincoln and Langlade county, would need to be completed by December to avoid a potential disruption of services.
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The new plan will be discussed at Monday's Health and Human Services Committee meeting, Karger says, and the full board is expected to make a decision about on Tuesday.