Home health service hangs in balance of county's budget meeting

by: Dave Faherty Updated:

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CALDWELL COUNTY, N.C. —

Some people in Caldwell County are worried they might be losing a medical service they need to survive.

For more than 30 years, Caldwell County Home Health Agency has helped couples like Linda and Ronald Collins. Four times a week county employees come to their Granite Falls home to help Linda care for her husband, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis.

"I love him and I don't want him put him away some place not while he's able to be here," Linda Collins said.

But Collins fears that is exactly what will happen if some county leaders have their way and vote Monday to eliminate the program. 

Caldwell County Commission Chairman Ben Griffin said competition from the private sector has caused the program, which was once a revenue producer for the county, to lose money this year and possibly next. 

"This is a service that the taxpayers are not obligated to provide. There is private sector companies out there that provide this service," Griffin said.

At stake are 15 jobs at the Caldwell County Health Department. Those workers help more than 300 people who cannot care for themselves. 

The layoffs could take effect as soon as this summer. 

"They deserve to keep their jobs. Without them, I don't have anybody," Ronald Collins said.

Ronald Collins fought back tears as he urged commissioners to reconsider.

Griffin said the county will not abandon couples like the Collinses. 

"We would not, under any circumstances, leave them out there without a service provider to them," he said.

A final decision on the program could be made as early as Monday when county leaders meet to discuss next year's budget. 

That meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the County Office building in downtown Lenoir.