Albany County commissioners plan to issue a request for proposals in hopes of finding a contractor who can begin prevention management planning for the county. The funding is provided under new block grants from the Wyoming Department of Health to fund programs aimed at preventing suicide and abuse of tobacco, alcohol and other controlled substances.
Under 2018’s budget bill, Albany County will receive $447,150 during the current biennium for prevention.
Tai Wright, Albany County’s grant manager, has been tasked with creating a request for proposals to find someone to generate the initial plans the county is required to produce within 180 days of signing a contract with the state.
That plan requires the county to “conduct a community prioritization process to identify the primary causal areas affecting underage alcohol use, adult binge drinking, opioid prescription drug abuse and other drug abuse.”
Within six months, the county will also need to generate “evidence-based strategies” to reduce tobacco use and suicide.
Previously, WDH has contracted out such services statewide through the nonprofit Prevention Management Organization. However, legislators grew frustrated in recent years with PMO’s high overhead costs. Hoping to find a competitor for PMO, the state issued its own request for proposals but didn’t get any other bidders.
In 2017, however, the state decided to do away with the statewide contracting system and put the onus on counties during a conference committee meeting.
In the Wyoming Legislature, a select group of representatives and senators gather in off-the-record “conference committees” to negotiate differences in each chambers’ budget bills.
By having counties work directly with organizations that offer preventive services, legislators hoped it would reduce the amount of funding ultimately being spent on administrative costs. In the main 2018 budget bill, legislators opted to provide $8 million total in grants for counties to pay directly for their needs. Of that sum, at least $2 million is required to go to suicide prevention.
Under the new system, counties effectively have three options: Make “prevention management” a county department, contract out for the services or deny the state grants altogether.
“They’re thinking that local accountability will create a better product,” Commissioner Heber Richardson said.
Richardson said Albany County’s population center has “distinct advantages” in finding prevention experts. The qualms legislators had with PMO’s work in other counties have not been applicable to Albany County, he said.
Albany County already has community-based committees on substance abuse and suicide prevention.
“You can’t ask for a better line-up of people in the state to work on this issue,” Interfaith-Good Samaritan Director Mike Vercauteren said. “Albany County has consistently led the way.”