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Beltrami County Board: Transportation for methadone treatment likely to continue

BEMIDJI – About a dozen people take advantage of transportation provided by Beltrami County for methadone treatment, and if two contracts are approved, as expected  Tuesday, that service will remain available.

The Beltrami County Board of Commissioners will vote on contracts potentially worth $72,950 at its regular meeting Tuesday.

But taxpayers may end up paying for only a fraction of that: half of a $45,450 transportation coordination contract with Paul Bunyan Transit will be paid for by the state’s medical assistance program, while $27,500 budgeted for social service transportation is not expected to be fully used.

The Bemidji-based transportation company will also profit from any money spent from the social service transportation fund.

“The thing about the contracts is trying to strike a balance between reasonable access to services and paying attention to the public dollar,” said John Pugleasa, of the county’s Health and Human Service Department.

Following the closure of a county-supported, but privately-run methadone clinic in 2009, Pugleasa’s department sought an alternative for more than 100 patients who required treatment for drug addiction.

“When that clinic closed we provided a whole lot more transportation than we do now,” Pugleasa explained, citing the reduction in the number of patients requiring treatment. “The biggest adjustment we made was saying that we weren’t going to reimburse for individual travel but we would provide van transportation.

“As we saw the amount of people we were reimbursing were all going to the same places, we saw that we could save the taxpayer quite a bit of money.”

The county, through Paul Bunyan Transit, gives patients rides once a week to clinics in St. Cloud and Brainerd.

Pugleasa said the county has found ways to avoid spending all the $27,500 set aside for social service transportation, which generally serves needy children.

“Sometimes we’ll have a social worker who needs to meet with a child anyway, who will provide that transportation,” he said. “We’ve found other ways to meet those needs.”

In other business, the board will also address the following:

E Authorizing Natural Resource Management to advertise for bids on re-foresting projects, amounting to $178,600. They include tree planting, site preparation, seedling release, deer browse protection, beaver control, forest inventory and mowing of recreation areas, cemeteries and tax forfeited land.

E Reviewing a request for the county’s job evaluation and compensation program to be completed in 2013. The board has cited a need to “refine or totally replace the job evaluation system” ahead of collective bargaining agreements for county employees to begin in the fall of 2013.

Justin Glawe
Reporting on crime, courts and Beltrami county government. Follow me on Twitter @JustinGlawe.
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