Tag Archives: Georgia

Puckett EMS delivers $1.3 million check, assumes ambulance duty in Walker County on Nov. 1

Source: Mike O’Neal, Walker County Messenger, October 16, 2015

On Nov. 1, Puckett EMS begins providing 911 ambulance service to all of Walker County. … On Oct. 15, the company delivered a $1.3 million check, full cash payment for that purchase. Terms of the contract call for Puckett to provide ambulance service with a base charge of $450 plus a $12-per-mile surcharge.

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Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell signs ambulance contract, alienates county coroner
Source: Tyler Jett, Times Free Press, October 3, 2015

Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell sold the county ambulance service this week and, in the process, alienated a local elected official. Heiskell signed a five-year contract with Puckett EMS on Wednesday. Beginning next month, the Austell, Ga., company will exclusively provide ambulance services to county residents for $250,000 per year from the local government. Puckett EMS Vice President Terry Johnson said the company will absorb all the county’s emergency services employees, which he estimated as 70-80 jobs. As part of the deal, Puckett EMS also will buy emergency equipment from Walker County for $1.35 million and build a garage in Walker County and employ three mechanics to maintain ambulances it uses in Tennessee and northwest Georgia. …

Three bid to become Walker County’s ambulance service provider
Source: Mike O’Neal, Walker County Messenger, September 13, 2015

Commissioner Bebe Heiskell on Thursday, Sept. 10, opened sealed bids from three Georgia-based companies: American Medical Response of Stone Mountain; Puckett EMS of Austell; and Angel EMS. Angel is headquartered in Fort Oglethorpe and has its fleet maintenance facilities just south of Chickamauga. … The county has operated its own ambulance service as part of its fire and emergency services department since Jan. 1, 2009, not so much by choice as by necessity. Prior to that date the county — as well as Catoosa and Dade counties — were served by Hutcheson Medical Center’s green and white ambulances. … At the time, chief Camp said the county had considered operating its own ambulances for at least five years. After a little more than 6½ years, the county will again contract an outside agency for emergency medical transportation services.

Commissioners Question Ambulance Availability

Source: Mike Miller, WJBF, September 12, 2015

Some Augusta commissioners still want to end the city’s contract with Gold Cross EMS because of the cost. Each year, the city pays the ambulance service more than $1.1 million dollars. But now, some officials are raising concerns about what they say is a lack of accountability with Gold Cross. … Some city officials say the ambulance service goes to “Status Level Zero” more often than it should. “Status Level Zero” means Gold Cross has no units available because they are on other calls. … So we decided to look into the claims that Gold Cross runs at “Status Level Zero” a lot, and we found that so far this year, they have been at that level at least 82 times.

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Gold Cross wins in Augusta’s appeal of zone award
Source: Susan McCord, The Augusta Chronicle, September 4, 2015

Augusta’s chief superior court judge has affirmed a state decision granting ambulance provider Gold Cross EMS exclusive access to the city’s emergency calls. … In an order filed this week, Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet upheld the Georgia Department of Public Health’s decision last year to affirm the Region 6 EMS Council’s earlier award of the Augusta EMS “zone” to Gold Cross. City officials had pressed since 2012 for greater oversight of EMS service, which Gold Cross had provided under a contract since 2005, and last year approved a revised contract that tightened a handful of provisions. Despite the contract, which guarantees Gold Cross a $1 million annual city subsidy, the company followed through with plans to secure ownership of all city 911 calls. The company got an initial Region 6 zone award to Augusta thrown out and won the zone on a second vote. …

Terminating Gold Cross’s contract up for vote Tuesday
Source: Uyen Le, WAGT, August 31, 2015

City leaders set to discuss ending their contract with Gold Cross EMS at a commission meeting tomorrow. Previously, commissioners asked the company to provide records to prove they would be financial strapped if a subsidy were to end. Although it did not receive any recommendation from the public safety committee, it’s still going in front of the full commission tomorrow. … Commissioner Sias says this is nothing personal against Gold Cross, this is about saving taxpayers more than a million dollars a year.

Columbia County officials say contract with Gold Cross protects residents by upholding standards
Source: Uyen Le, WAGT, August 26, 2015

While some Richmond County commissioners want to end the city’s contract with Gold Cross EMS, Columbia County officials say having a contract protects residents by setting the standards the company needs to meet. … Contract or not, Gold Cross has to provide EMS services for both Columbia and Richmond Counties.  That’s because the state awarded this zone to the private company. … In Richmond County city leaders want to end a contract with Gold Cross as well as the subsidy that goes with it. Columbia County’s EMA Director, Pam Tucker says keeping a contract protects residents. … Richmond County leaders are scheduled to discuss terminating the city’s contract with Gold Cross in a commission meeting on Tuesday.

NAACP chapter concerned over privatized EMS

Source: Tracey Smith, WFXL, September 8, 2015

The Terrell County NAACP is standing up to county commissioners who want to privatize the county’s emergency services. The Terrell county clerk said the idea to privatize EMS and 911 was an effort to save money. She says the county loses nearly half a million dollars providing these services. But the president of the Terrell county NAACP says privatizing emergency services would hurt low income families in the county

Three-year dispute with Augusta ambulance provider hits turning point

Source: Susan McCord, The Augusta Chronicle, August 29, 2015

It’s not Augusta’s first conflict over emergency medical services, but the city might be nearing a turning point in the latest – its three-year disagreement with its provider of 10 years, Gold Cross EMS. Augusta Commission member Sammie Sias said now is the time to revisit the city’s current three-year EMS contract and possibly end a pricey, unnecessary and problematic arrangement. … Sias announced his intention to cancel the contract 10 days ago and quickly garnered support from commissioners who have long questioned the deal and welcome saving the city a $1 million annual subsidy owed under the contract. …

Mackinac Center Survey Finds One-Third of Ga. School Districts Contract Out Services

Source: Michael D. LaFaive and Kelly McCutchen, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, August 28, 2015

More than a third of all conventional pubic school districts in Georgia contract out one of the three major non-instructional services, according to survey data collected this summer by a the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan-based research institute. The Mackinac Center survey of Georgia and four other states found that 38 percent of Georgia districts contract out for at least one of the “big three” non-instructional services: food, transportation and custodial services. … But Mackinac found a curious pattern in Georgia: Just three districts — 1.7 percent — contract out transportation (bus) services, and only four, or 2.2 percent, contract out for food services.

School official claims auto repair shop overcharged MCSD

Source: WRBL, July 1, 2015

Columbus Police say they are conducting an investigation to see if fraud was committed after someone from the school district contacted them. The investigation involves allegations that an auto repair shop overcharged the Muscogee County School District by more than $12,000. News 3’s Sarah Panko talked to the Columbus lawyer who says he brought these concerns to the school district months ago. Last August, Charlie Miller says his client came to him with concerns over a school bus air conditioning bid with the school district. …. Millers goes on to say that he filed a request for invoices and found that Moseley Auto Repair billed the district for more than the 12% parts mark-up that they agreed on in the bid. In some cases, Miller says he saw a mark-up of more than 800% on one item. ….

Why Urban Hospitals Are Leaving Cities for Fancy Suburbs

Source: Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News, April 14, 2015

….Currently, hospital relocations are planned or underway in South and Central Florida, eastern Tennessee, central Georgia, Birmingham, Ala., and northeast Ohio. Some have stirred controversy, as in Belleville:

— Just west of Fort Lauderdale, HCA Inc., a for-profit hospital chain, plans to close Plantation General Hospital and open a new hospital seven miles away in more affluent Davie, near a medical school. “It’s all about greed,” said Plantation Mayor Diane Bendekovic. When HCA offered to keep some outpatient services in town, she told them: “Don’t throw Plantation any crumbs.”

— Tennova Healthcare is moving its flagship Physicians Regional Medical Center near downtown Knoxville, Tenn. closer to higher-income suburbs eight miles west. “Clearly …they want to be near the better zip codes” said Tony Spezia, CEO of Covenant Health, owner of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, which will become the last general hospital downtown. Tennova is owned by Community Health Systems, a large for-profit hospital system.

— Just outside Cleveland, Lakewood Hospital in Lakewood, Ohio, which is managed by the Cleveland Clinic, is slated to close in 2016, and patients will be directed to the Clinic’s newer Fairview Hospital three miles away or to another facility being built in Avon, 13 miles away. Both Fairview and Avon are higher-income towns. Lakewood officials say losing the hospital and its 1,000 employees could have a prolonged impact…..

….Hospital officials point to their aging, landlocked facilities and argue it is cheaper to build, rather than renovate. What they don’t say publicly is how geography is often economic destiny for a hospital, especially at a time of increasing financial pressure as a result of Medicare funding cuts, including penalties that may result from new pay-for-performance measures in the Affordable Care Act. By moving to wealthier areas, hospitals can reduce the percent of uninsured and lower-paying Medicaid patients, while increasing the proportion of privately insured patients – what hospitals refer to as attracting better “payer mix.” That’s also why they locate outpatient centers and medical offices in affluent suburbs. But relocations often spark anger from those left behind, who worry about loss of jobs and of access to care, particularly for the poor. When the hospitals are nonprofits, like St. Elizabeth’s, questions loom larger because they are exempted from taxes in exchange for providing benefits to the community. “Hospitals were established in inner cities where the greatest needs were and now, essentially, that charity obligation has gone by the wayside as they are looking at their bottom line,” said Gerard Anderson, director of the Center for Hospital Finance and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Even nonprofit hospitals want to be near wealthier residents. “You move to where the money is,” he said….

How Cities Are Trying to Combat Toll Traffic

Source: Daniel C. Vock, Governing, April 14, 2015

Transit agencies and companies have tried raising toll prices at peak times, but even that’s not keeping drivers away, so they’re looking for new ways to reduce congestion…. The idea behind high-occupancy toll lanes is pretty simple: Carpoolers ride free, but single riders pay a toll rate set by the principles of supply and demand. The more crowded the lane becomes, the more expensive the toll…. But now many of the companies and agencies that run toll roads are discovering that even high prices sometimes aren’t enough to keep traffic flowing as fast as they would like. In many cases, they’re looking for new ways to satisfy demand, or even drive it down, without building even more lanes…

Opinion: Out of Debtors’ Prison, With Law as the Key

Source: Tina Rosenberg, New York Times, March 27, 2015

…. You don’t go to jail for walking your dog without a leash, making an illegal left turn or burning leaves without a permit, but in many states you will go to jail if you can’t pay the resulting fees and fines. We have a two-tier system: The rich pay fines. The poor go to jail….The injustices are compounded when governments contract with private companies to manage probation, as they do in 13 states, according to Nusrat Choudhury, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union. These companies offer their services free to a city — and then charge offenders fees sometimes as large as or larger than their debt, with jail the penalty for nonpayment. In many cases, debt collection is the only service they perform. Human Rights Watch has said that most states that use private probation ”do not currently subject probation companies to any meaningful oversight or regulation at all.”…

Privatization Advocate Crafts New Bill Aimed At Foster Care System

Source: Michell Eloy, WABE, January 19, 2015

One of the state’s biggest advocates of privatizing foster care has filed a new bill aimed at the state’s child welfare system. State Sen. Renee Unterman’s bill would allow a struggling parent to give temporary custody to a friend or acquaintance for up to one year. Active members of the military could do the same for more than a year. In both cases, parents could sidestep the state Division of Family and Children Services, or DFCS, which oversees the state’s foster care system. Nonprofits and faith-based groups would provide the crisis intervention and counseling to the families….

Related:
A private-sector approach to foster care gets sidelined in state report
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 9, 2015

The last legislative session started with a renewed push to begin privatizing the foster care system and ended with a pilot program that aimed to do just that. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle/AJC file But those efforts are now on the backburner. The pilot program sputtered before state officials pulled the plug. And a report released this morning by the Child Welfare Reform Council is largely silent on the future of the privatization of foster care programs. All that spells trouble for advocates who say a private-sector approach is badly needed.

Privatizing Foster Care Pilot in Georgia
Source: Children First, May 28, 2014

Region 5, which includes many counties served by Children First, has been selected as a Pilot Program for the Privatization of Foster Care. You may have seen some of the recent news about moves to privatize some Department of Family & Children Services (DFCS) services in Georgia. Back in February, Senate Bill 350 was introduced which would require DFCS to contract out primary functions such as adoption, family preservation, independent living, foster care, and case management. The bill received wide support in the Senate and the House as well as the initial support of Governor Deal. See our previous blog post HERE for more information on the bill.

The Privatization Pilot Program would only affect Foster Care Placement Services. A “Lead Agency” would be contracted to provide foster placement and ensure the health and well-being of children placed in foster care in the region. The Lead Agency would be responsible for:
– Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Foster Placements through a network of private Child Placement Agencies, Child Care Institutions, and Group Homes. (Would not include Relative Placements)
– Placing children in the most appropriate, least restricitve foster care setting.
– Ensuring the child’s safe keeping during placement in foster care.
– Ensuring the child’s well-being while in foster care. This includes family connections, educational needs, physical health, and social, environmental, and emotional health.

Public Meeting on Privatization Pilot
Source: Georgia Department of Human Services, PowerPoint Presentation, May 27, 2014

Child Welfare Council Reacts To Deal’s Privatization Plans
Source: NPR, April 14, 2014

Members of a Governor Nathan Deal’s child welfare panel are responding to his plan to privatize some of the child welfare system. Deal’s plan calls for a two-region privatization pilot program, with the state moving child placement and family recruitment to private groups already working with the state. Those two pilot regions have yet to be named.

House approves plan to test privatization of adoption, foster care
Source: Jaime Sarrio, ajc.com, March 18, 2014

A bill calling for a two-year pilot program to test the privatization of child welfare services passed the House on Tuesday. Senate Bill 350, which would privatize services such as foster care and adoption in certain parts of the state, did not receive the 91 votes needed to pass during the first vote. But members quickly chose to reconsider the bill, and it passed the second time around with a 104-70 vote.

Georgia House slows down efforts to privatize child welfare system
Source: Ewa Kochanska Atlanta Political Buzz Examiner March 11, 2014

The Georgia House Judiciary Committee decided Tuesday to scale down the Senate Bill 350 that would require the state Department of Human Services (DHS) to outsource some of their child welfare services through contracts with private providers. The new proposal would introduce a two-year pilot program in just a few areas in Georgia, to make sure the transition can be closely monitored and doesn’t put more children at risk
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House begins debate on privatizing foster care
Source: Rebecca Lindstrom, 11alive.com, March 5, 2014

Ryan and Stephanie Martin fostered two sets of children. The last found a permanent place in their home. Fostering was always an option. But it wasn’t until the private organization FaithBridge approached their church in Alpharetta, that they decided to get involved. … They see the privatization bill as a way to free up DFCS workers to focus on child abuse investigations and permanency plans for children in the state’s care. But other private organizations told reporter Rebecca Lindstrom, FaithBridge is in the minority of those who feel Senate Bill 350 is a good idea.

SB 350: Privatizing Georgia’s Foster Care System
Source: Fact Sheet, Emory University School of Law, Barton Child Law and Policy Center, 2014

…. SB 350 does not respond to the problem:
• SB 350 does not address the urgent needs of Georgia’s child welfare system, which were highlighted by the recently tragic deaths of Emani Moss and Eric Forbes. DFCS is the sole authority for receiving and investigating child abuse and neglect reports.
• SB 350 complicates the state’s ability to ensure quality and uniformity of services for children by spreading accountability across 15 lead agencies and dozens of subcontracted providers.

SB 350 does not offer a state-specific solution:
• SB 350 does not reflect research, data, or stakeholder input about the current performance and capacity of Georgia’s child welfare system.
• Based on the most current data available, Georgia’s publicly-administered foster care system is more effective at keeping children safe than Florida’s privately-administered foster care system, on which SB 350 is modeled. Fewer children in Georgia re-experience maltreatment and fewer children re-enter foster care. …

Ga. Senate OKs bill to privatize foster care
Source: Christina A. Cassidy, Associated Press, February 18, 2014

Some state child-welfare services would be privatized under a bill passed by the Georgia Senate on Tuesday that has drawn the support of top Republican lawmakers. State senators voted 31-18 in a largely partisan vote. The bill will now head to the Georgia House for consideration.

Private sector always most efficient? No, not hardly
Source: Jay Bookman, AJC.com, January 28, 2014

Georgia officials seem intent on clearing the way to privatize some or all of the state’s foster-care system, at least in part by utilizing faith-based organizations. While I can see advantages to that approach, I can also think of reasons to be wary: …. Privatizing core government functions ought to be done with extreme caution. If you want to privatize accounting or human resource functions at DFCS, it might be a money-saver. But taking care of Georgia children whose parents cannot or will not care for them is a core government responsibility….

Editorial – Protecting children: Consider privatization
Source: Editorial, Savannah Now, January 23, 2014

The goal of privatizing public services should be to save tax dollars or to improve quality. Or preferably both. Otherwise, what’s the point? …. Gov. Deal merits applause for taking a fresh approach to a miserable system. His privatization plan — once he fleshes it out — merits a close look. …

Speed of foster care fix troubling for some
Source: Jaime Sarrio, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 14, 2014

A plan to put private organizations in charge of Georgia’s approximately 7,000 foster children is moving too fast for some child advocates who want more study before overhauling the system. Gov. Nathan Deal last week announced plans to turn over aspects of the state’s child-protection system to private organizations after revelations of widespread failings by the agency. A bill could be introduced this session that would call for changes as early as 2015, said sources familiar with the legislation. … The move toward privatization follows Deal’s earlier proposal to spend $27 million over the next three years to hire more than 500 DFCS caseworkers and supervisors — an increase of 26 percent. That proposal came shortly after the highly publicized deaths of two metro Atlanta children and reports in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that DFCS workers’ mistakes contributed to at least 25 deaths in 2012. …

One option to solving foster care issues: Privatization
Source: Micharl King, WXIA, January 10, 2014

Georgia state House Speaker David Ralston says he is open to privatizing the state Department of Family and Children Services. 11Alive News has learned that officials from the Department of Human Services, which runs DFCS, visited Florida recently to meet with its department. The major focus: the privatization of foster care…. Privately handled foster care. Several states do this now, including the Sunshine State. Florida outsources its foster care to 20 non-profits; each handles a specific region. …