Branson Task Force approves Resolution integrating city and county health departments

Press Release by City of Branson - Courtesy of Jerry Adams
Taney County could have one health department after February 1

The Health Services Integration Task Force, which has been studying the integration of the Branson and Taney County Health (TCH) departments for nine months, has unanimously approved a Resolution approving the merger of the two departments. That Resolution, along with a city and county health department integration contract, now goes to the Branson Board of Aldermen for approval January 14.

If approved by aldermen, the city and county health departments will become one entity in February. “Our local public health system will be strengthened by fully combining all public health functions into one infrastructure,” said Linn Smith, Branson’s city health director.

Taney County Health Director Jim Berry will direct the new department as Smith plans retiring January 31. “Merging our resources allows us to more effectively meet the growing public health demands in our county, and provide comprehensive general and environmental public health services to all residents and businesses,” said Berry

Currently, the city health department conducts all environmental inspections for commercial businesses like restaurants, hotels, theaters and daycares while TCH provides general health services for adults and children like immunizations, dental and expectant mothers’ programs. All of these services will continue, but under one department

According to the 5-year integration agreement, all city health inspectors would be moved to TCH offices at Bee Creek and Rinehart roads. City employees would maintain current salaries as well as health, vacation and retirement benefits. All equipment and resources used by the Branson Health Department would also be transferred to the county health facility.

Berry said the county health offices on the corner of Bee Creek and Rinehart roads will be expanded to house the additional city health employees. But until that happens, the city health inspectors will continue operating out of Branson City Hall.

The county health department will also take over responsibilities for animal control in the city.

The agreement states the city of Branson will pay the county health department $800,000 for the first two years, and the city’s allocations for the next three years will be negotiable.

Berry estimates the cost to operate the integrated health department will be $3 million annually. TCH now gets about $2 million of its funding from a county tax levy, contracts through the state health department and “fees for services.”

The Integration Task Force, formed in May, consists of representatives from the Branson Board of Aldermen, the Taney County Health Department Board of Trustees and members of the Branson business community appointed by the two boards. It held several public meetings on the merger plan.

The Task Force members agreed to continue meeting regularly over the term of the contract to review the integration progress, set policies and provide guidance.