West Baton Rouge Parish began the process of taking the WBR Health Unit under its control, and away from the Louisiana Department of Health. By taking control of the WBR Health Unit, the parish will be able to expand services and keep federal dollars the state currently receives, Parish President Riley “PeeWee” Berthelot explained.
The health unit is funded in part by a local property tax, though the state collects federal funding for offering programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
The parish currently employs three staff members at the WBR Health Unit and two are employed by the state. If the switch is made, the parish would likely hire two more employees, Berthelot said.
The parish administration has collaborated with other parishes that have taken control of their local health unit for about three months. With the health unit under parish control, the staff would be able to offer services like health screenings at community centers and do more outreach programs.
“I think we could do a better job for our constituents, we could serve them better,” Berthelot said.
The staff is excited about the switch and potential of doing more outreach, especially with the elderly community, Michaelyn Carr, the nurse aid at the WBR Health Unit told the Parish Council.
“A lot of programs that funding is coming from the federal government that we’re not receiving that funding,” Parish Council Chairman Gary Spillman said. “Other parishes have...taken over health units and they receive those funds instead of [the money] going to the state. [It’s a] good project, think it can work and we’ve been spending the funds anyway that the citizens are paying for, so I think this will just make it better for the future.”