October 27, 2021

Agency in talks to save Jacobus programs

Family & Children’s Counseling Services is talking with Cortland County officials about how community organizations might take over some services provided by the Jacobus Center for Reproductive Health, which closes later this month.

“There has been a discussion with county officials about what services may be discontinued as a result of the Jacobus Center closure, with the goal of identifying specific programs that might be provided by other community agencies,” said Lisa Hoeschele, the president and CEO of Family & Children’s Counseling Services, on Wednesday. “We are waiting for program and financial information from the county at this time.”

The county announced the closure of the Jacobus Center effective Sept. 30 on Sept. 16. in a statement posted on the Cortland County Legislature’s Facebook page.

The idea to close the center over a decrease in clientele over the years was going to be the topic of conversation between interim Health Director Lisa Perfetti and the Legislature and then the Board of Health, but the departure of the last three employees staffing the center forced Perfetti’s hand, said Legislator Cathy Bischoff (D-Cortland), chairwoman of the Health and Human Service Committee.

Bischoff said in an email to legislators Sept. 17 that Perfetti told her Sept. 10 “that there was a current and evolving staffing issue with Jacobus Center.”

In 2019, nine clinical and support staff and a part-time health educator operated the center. But three people retired and three more resigned in 2020. Among the people who left was the nurse practitioner, whose role it was to operate the clinic.

Perfetti said this morning the first six departures were not replaced because “our visits continued to decline, indicated a decreased need for staffing,” she said.

That departure left only one full-time nurse, one full-time front desk person, one part-time backup person for desk coverage and a part-time health educator, who was covered under grant funding and not part of the minimal staffing required to operate the center.

Bischoff said the center had stopped taking new patients in August because the clinic lacked a nurse practitioner required in order to operate.

However, the center continued seeing the current clients it had with the assistance of the medical adviser at the Health Department.

Bischoff said Perfetti did hire a physician able to fill the nurse practitioner position, but the physician didn’t have any experience in a clinical setting like the Jacobus Center and would’ve needed training. By the time he would’ve started Monday — there was no one left in the center to train him.

“It makes no sense to re-staff a clinic which is very likely to be closed by next summer,” Bischoff said. “After discussing numbers and alternatives, I informed Lisa of my support for whatever decision she would make.”

On Sept. 14, Perfetti met with Legislature Chairman Paul Heider, County Administrator Rob Corpora, Health Education Manager Nicky Anjeski and Bischoff.

“After reviewing the situation again in detail, Lisa recommended the closure of the Jacobus Center,” Bischoff said. The decision was reported to the Board of Health on Sept. 15.

The full-time registered nurse and part-time health educator were transferred to other areas of the Health Department.

Perfetti said in an email the Board of Health had been consulted. However, Marie Walsh, the president of the board, said in an email Tuesday that the board was informed of the decision, but that the board didn’t make the decision. She declined further comment.

Bischoff said all other positions will be abolished. She also said that the county is giving clients a three-month supply of contraception while they transfer to a new doctor. The county will continue to gather data on sexually transmitted diseases.