September 24, 2002 11:00 pm

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

The committee charged with overseeing Union County's public and mental health authority is developing a plan that should lead to a better understanding of the relationship between the county and the private corporation that wears two hats.

"I was not clear until now about the separation between the private non-profit and the public (health) authority," Nancy Anderson, chairwoman of the county Health and Human Services Advisory Committee, said Tuesday after a two-day meeting. "The issue has come up time and time again, and it's been a gradual learning process for everybody."

The sessions, led by Marion County Health Department Director Jeff Davis, were called by the committee to help its members understand the public role of the private Center for Human Development, which is also the county's public and mental health authority.

Davis, who has has been meeting regularly with the Health and Human Services Advisory Committee for nearly a year, on Monday and Tuesday recommended several steps that the committee needs to take to ensure continuous public review of the publicly funded operations of CHD.

Davis recommended that the committee review "all state funding and comment on how it's being used (by CHD)." He said the review should be "on the public record and in public view."

CHD's budget is about $7 million per year. Spokesman Mark Kubin said the corporation operates with about "60 funding streams," some of which coming from private grants. A board of directors oversees the corporation and its meetings and budget are not open to the public.

The county contracts with CHD to receive and deliver public funds as well as deliver public health, mental health, veterans services and alcohol and drug treatment services. Using private funds, CHD also provides a variety of other services not covered by the county contract.

Concerns raised last year about the operation of CHD ended with the county commissioners hiring Davis to analyze the corporation's operations.

Anderson said Davis' analysis has given her and other members a better idea of the relationship between the corporation and the county.

"Jeff (Davis) has been instrumental in defining the committee's role and how we work with the county commissioners," she said. "He's been an important part of defining what CHD's role is, and he's clarified this contentious point about what is the local authority."

Because CHD combines public and private operations, Davis has recommended that the center's CEO David Still, who is also the public and mental health authority, define 10 percent of his time for the public administrative role.

Davis said that during that time period, "he is not the CHD director, he is the administrator of the system."

The committee is considering receiving a public report on public operations each month. Davis has suggested that the committee begin with a report on the difference between the public and private aspects of the corporation.

At the end of the two sessions Monday and Tuesday, Davis said he will organize the recommendations and the committee's suggestions into a paper to be delivered to the committee.

In his initial report, completed last September, Davis strongly urged the entire health services community, both public and private, to work more closely together to try to better deliver services. He reiterated his recommendation Tuesday.

"When different organizations delivering services in the same area are fighting for a piece of a small pie without coming together, people will be unhappy," he said.

Davis has recommended that the county's health and human services committee be the catalyst for that collaboration and cooperation, but Anderson said she's not sure the committee can take on that role.

"We're a volunteer committee made up of busy professionals," she said, "and I think first of all, our time needs to be spent doing what is required by Oregon statue and our bylaws and what the county commissioners require of us. Anything extra needs to be just that."

Union County Commissioner Steve McClure, who is the commissioners' liaison with the health committee, said Tuesday he believes Davis has "given us a better definition of the authority issues, and he's helped the committee find their role."