Health district merger pondered

By KAITLYN NAPLES
STAFF WRITER
The Bristol-Burlington Health District has been around since the mid-1970s, and last year Plainville and Southington decided to merge their health districts to create one. If research shows a benefit to the towns, Bristol-Burlington may join the Plainville-Southington Regional Health District in the future as a way to be more efficient and cost effective.
“We’ve been discussing exploring this over the years, but it was never the right time,” Tom O’Brien, chair of the Bristol-Burlington Regional Health District, said. “With the recent establishment of the Plainville-Southington district, and the former director of the Bristol-Burlington health district (Lynn Abrahamson) joining her husband after he was relocated, we decided now would be a good time to look into a merge.”
O’Brien said towns around Connecticut are being encouraged by the state’s Department of Health, to create regional health districts because it believes there is a savings.
Shane Lockwood, director of health for the Plainville-Southington Regional Health District, said since Plainville and Southington merged, there is a greater presence of staff members, which allows for more issues to be addressed in a timely manner.
“Officials are looking at every angle associated with each district, and see where the benefits are of merging,” Lockwood said. Lockwood is filling in as a temporary interim director for the Bristol-Burlington health district until the board finds a more permanent interim director while the research on the merge is conducted.
O’Brien said the board of directors for Bristol-Burlington will look at union contracts, staffing needs, school health, and cost for each town before making any decisions. In addition, a subcommittee was formed for the Plainville-Southington district to look at the merge as well. He added the earliest that a decision may be considered is next July.
Lockwood said the Plainville-Southington receives state funding based on population, which translates to $1.85 per person. O’Brien said the Bristol-Burlington district has a budget of about $3 million, and if a merge were to happen, the board would only approve it if there is no increase on cost to the towns. Also, any approval would also have to come from the state’s health department.
Comments? Email knaples@BristolObserver. com.