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County receives $199,000

WORTHINGTON -- Keeping cigarettes out of the hands of kids and convincing more adults to kick the habit may get a little easier in Nobles County thanks to a nearly $199,000 grant awarded to the county's Clean Air For Everyone (CAFE) organization.

Rock County Administrator Kyle Oldre announced the award during Wednesday afternoon's meeting of the Nobles-Rock Community Health Services board meeting in Worthington.

Paula Anderson, NRCHS health educator, had applied for the grant through Blue Cross Blue Shield (BC/BS). She was giving a presentation in Washington and could not attend Wednesday's meeting.

"This is a great deal and credit to Paula," Oldre said. "You gotta love it when someone goes out and finds 200,000 bucks -- there's far worse that could happen."

The grant is guaranteed by BC/BS for up to three years, although Oldre said there is potential for extension. The grant will fund a newly created community organizer position to work full-time for BC/BS Communities for Healthy Air, as well as travel, equipment, print media and radio advertising and office expenses.

There is $17,000 in indirect costs associated with the grant, including the need for office space and additional paperwork for the auditor/treasurer. Oldre said those expenses will be reimbursed by BC/BS.

While the grant was awarded specifically to Nobles County CAFE, Oldre said Rock County will also benefit, because it frees up Minnesota Department of Health grant dollars that can be used in Rock County.

"I'm delighted for Nobles County," Oldre said. "This is a great project."

Nobles County Administrator Mel Ruppert said he and county commissioners have discussed space issues relevant to the new position.

"Office space is a concern with WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and the balance of (public) health," Ruppert said.

Representatives from BC/BS will be in Worthington Tuesday afternoon to present a formal check to Nobles County CAFE for tobacco prevention. NRCHS members accepted the grant and its requirements on Wednesday.

In other action, the board:

- Learned that NRCHS revenues are not keeping pace with expenditures so far this year. Revenues were reported at 39 percent of budget, while expenditures were at 44 percent of budget.

- Received an update on the administrative services contract with Sioux Valley Visiting Nurses Association. Board chair Karen Pfeifer reported that the contract has been signed by both SVVNA and NRCHS and is now in the hands of Sioux Valley Human Services. SVVNA is contracted to search for a new director for the public health agency.

- Received a report from NRCHS Sanitarian Jason Kloss regarding the public health preparedness drill performed in June in both Nobles and Rock counties. Kloss said the drill helped show areas where additional planning is necessary.

"The drill was a success in that we pulled it off," Kloss said. "But we did learn a number of things."

The drill was financed through a public health preparedness grant, and Kloss reported some funds were remaining and need to be spent by the end of the program year, July 31. As such, the agency will purchase additional hand-held radios, materials to construct larger signs and more sturdy separators to use in the event a mass dispensing clinic must be conducted.

- Learned that home health now has 30 clients in Rock County and 53 clients in Nobles County -- an increase of 5.5 percent, according to Marge Brchan of HealthReady, the agency assisting NRCHS until a new director is hired.

Brchan said the number of skilled nursing clients could be increased further if NRCHS fills a vacancy in the home care department.

- Discussed the need for more space for the WIC program in Nobles County. Brchan reported the number of WIC clients has increased 7.5 percent since December -- an increase due in large part to SDSU students who scouted the county last fall to enroll qualifying families in the program.

- Discussed staff shortages in the areas of WIC and home care. Three candidates will be interviewed for the WIC position, and candidates are now being screened for the vacancy in home care.

- Voted to increase the hours of a WIC technician in Nobles County from three-fifths to four-fifths time, effective Aug. 1.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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