Renewal of the health unit tax on the Saturday ballot | New

Voters in Ascension parish will be invited on Saturday to settle a second round for the justice of the peace and to renew the property tax of the parish health office.

The health unit tax, which expires at the end of the year, is renewed for 10 years and would generate around $ 3.1 million per year. On a $ 250,000 home with homestead exemption, the tax will continue to cost homeowners $ 35 per year.

After surviving a three-person primary vote on November 13, two Republicans, Lynelle Johnson and Kim Landry, are vying for the replacement of former Justice of the Peace John Hebert in the 3rd Court of Justice. He resigned in January. Small claims court mainly covers the eastern half of the Eastern Ascension.

Ascension’s only health unit in Gonzales distributes food and infant nutrition services to the poor, tests for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, and offers immunizations and family planning. The unit continues to play a role in vaccinations against the coronavirus.

John Diez, executive director of the parish government, said the health unit tax also pays for mosquito control, has mandated medical services in the parish prison and is funding a new wellness center at the Council on Aging.

On the books since 1952, the $ 2million health tax has seen some of its previous budget demands shifted to new revenue streams or reduced entirely since the tax was last renewed in 2011.

But Diez said parish officials are considering a new wellness center in the West Bank modeled on Thibodaux’s, and new wellness programs to tackle obesity issues in Ascension if the tax were to be taxed. renewed. He said the health assessment at Our Lady of the Lake Ascension Hospital continues to rate obesity as the # 1 health issue in the parish.

Diez said parish officials plan to use part of the health unit’s income to provide more preventative programs to keep people healthier, such as aerobics, yoga, or other types of exercise. courses in parish community centers.

“It’s kind of on the horizon what we want to do with this is take the upstream health care and not only wait for people to enter the health unit, but offer them good lessons. -be, ”he said.

Donaldsonville’s new wellness center would combine the services of the old health and mental health units, but would also focus on preventative care that keeps people healthier.

“I mean that’s where you really have an impact on healthcare, when you catch it upstream,” Diez said.

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The health unit fund ended 2020 with a surplus of $ 4.2 million, according to a parish audit.

When the tax was last renewed by voters a decade ago, it also supported the parish animal shelter, animal control services and more health units than it does today.

The outcry over conditions at the parish-run animal shelter in the mid-2010s led to the non-profit management of the shelter’s services – now the home of CARA – and the passage of a new property tax from 1 million at the end of 2018.

All animal services are now funded by the $ 1 million animal shelter tax and have completed the shift from the health unit’s fiscal budget to the animal services budget in 2021.

Local health units, which once had sufficient state funding, have closed across Louisiana over the years due to past budget cuts. The units aimed to provide a range of limited primary care services to the poor and underserved populations of the state.

At one point, over two decades ago, Ascension Health Service Tax and state dollars funded three health service buildings in Gonzales, Donaldsonville and Sorrento. The Sorrento building closed and was converted into a cancer screening center in 2000.

The Donaldsonville health unit closed in 2014 under former parish president Tommy Martinez, about two years after a newly constructed and federally qualified health center opened across from the unit. health of the parish on Catalpa Street. The non-profit clinic rents land from the parish government.

At the time, the parish also had to make up the difference in recent state cuts to keep two health units open.

The then $ 1.4 million Capitol City Family Health Center also had the support of local officials and lawmakers and state funding, but also offered many of the services offered by the neighboring health department, as well as others. The facility is now known as CareSouth Medical and Dental.

The new wellness center, Diez said, would not aim to duplicate the services of the nonprofit clinic, but to meet another need.


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Jennifer R. Strohm