Fulton talks health funding

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Providing health care dominated Fulton County commissioners’ discussion at a nonvoting work session Wednesday, though specifics of how many things will be funded will wait for a later meeting.

The county is legally required to fund the board of health, family and children services, and mental health, substance abuse, and developmental disability care, said Pamela Roshell, county chief operating officer for Health, Human Services & Public Works.

“Our total investment for 2023 for mandated services is $23.7 million,” she said. But the county goes “above and beyond” that requirement, giving $3.7 million more than required to those programs and funding Grady Memorial Hospital and many other health services, Roshell said.

Fulton County’s total spending on health-related services is $132.5 million, she said.

Commissioners previously agreed to turn the building at 4700 North Point Parkway into a multi-function health center, Chairman Robb Pitts said. It will serve the north end of the county, and that commitment came with a pledge to build another multi-function health center for the south end on Stonewall Tell Road, he said.

Pitts confirmed that county staff should look for ways to fund that southern center, which is estimated to cost $44 million.

There are three training centers for people with developmental disabilities in Fulton County: north, central and south, Roshell said. But only two are in use.

“We have not been able to continue operations in south Fulton due to ongoing security concerns in that facility,” she said. That center’s clients are being bused to the central location two or three days a week, but aren’t getting a full week of services, Roshell said.

The county plans to renovate an existing building at 475 Fairburn Road as a new southern center, at a cost of $4.7 million, she said.

The county is renegotiating its support agreement with Grady Memorial Hospital; the current contract expires at the end of 2023, County Manager Dick Anderson said.

Fulton County funds Grady with at least $60 million a year. That’s less than Grady has asked for previously, and now the hospital is seeking an additional $15 million a year, Anderson said. DeKalb also funds the hospital but not nearly as much as Fulton does, he said.

“We cannot afford for Grady to not be financially viable,” Anderson said.

Grady, in downtown Atlanta, provides emergency and indigent care for thousands of people in Fulton County, and its burden grew heavier last year with the closure by Wellstar Health System of the only two hospitals in south Fulton County.

Fulton County has backed Grady with almost $3 billion over the last half-century, Anderson said.

“The expansion of Medicaid solves all problems, if it’s done substantially the way it was done in North Carolina,” he said. Georgia is one of 10 states that did not accept expanded federal Medicaid funding under the Affordable Care Act.

Grady plans to open two new clinics in south Fulton County, funded entirely through a state program, Roshell said. The hospital could open up to four clinics, Anderson said.

And Morehouse School of Medicine seeks county funding to open a new clinic in south Fulton within four months, Roshell said. That would cost $4 million to build and operate in the first year, but less in subsequent years, she said.