- Associated Press - Monday, August 10, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas health officials announced Monday that the state is ending a home health care program that serves thousands of people, a move that could leave 2,300 workers and contractors seeking new jobs.

Arkansas Department of Health Director Nathaniel Smith told workers with the state’s In Home Services program that the state would begin phasing out the program.

“We have determined that the program is no longer sustainable for the agency due to financial constraints and competition from the private sector,” Smith wrote in a letter dated Monday. “Over the next several months, we will explore opportunities to transition our In Home Services to a private sector provider.”

About 13,000 people are served by the program, which provides in-home services such as health care and hospice. Smith said in the letter that the department would help those served by the program move to a private provider over the next several months.

About 500 Health Department employees work on the program, along with another 1,800 who contract with the state. A spokeswoman for the department said the agency didn’t have a definite end date for the program, and Smith wrote the process would take at least six months.

Smith said the state would assist workers as they try to find jobs with a private provider or elsewhere in state government.

“Their jobs are going to be there until that private sector transition occurs and then it’s up to the private sector on whether they keep them as employees,” ADH spokeswoman Kerry Krell said.

Kerry said the revenue and number of people participating in the program has declined steadily over the past several years, decreasing from 18,600 served by it in the fiscal year that ended in June 2011. The revenue from the program has decreased from $71.5 million in the 2011 fiscal year to $58.6 million in the fiscal year that just ended.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he supported the decision to wind down the program, saying the state shouldn’t be competing with the private sector in providing such home health services.

“This is an example of a government program that is no longer sustainable and can be ended because the private sector has stepped in to meet demand,” Hutchinson said in a statement released Monday afternoon. “In the long run, this transition will preserve jobs, save taxpayer dollars and result in a more efficient, viable and sustainable in-home care program for Arkansans.”


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