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MCHD leadership says department could become a conduit for federal grant dollars

MORGANTOWN — If you’re going to run a county health department, you better know how to get after federal grant dollars. 

That was abundantly clear during a recent audit report of the Monongalia County Health Department’s 2022 fiscal year, during which Nicholas Ferrari of Ferrari & Associates explained MCHD pulled in just over $3.3 million in federal grants between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. 

That’s actually more money ($2.7 million) than the health department generated through patient-related services for the same period of time and represents a $654,944 jump in grant revenue over the year prior. 

But as County Health Officer Lee Smith explained, the grants that are rolling in now have been hard-earned over a number of years.  

“If you roll back the clock five or six years, we were content to get scraps. We were aggressively going after $1,000, $3,000, $5,000 grants. But with that came a learning process and comfort level of what we can achieve,” Smith said.  

As that comfort level has grown, so have the grant dollars and so has the health department, which is now the largest in West Virginia based on its roster of 82 full- and part-time employees. 

Now MCHD leadership says it can foresee putting that experience and manpower to work for some of the smaller health departments and agencies in the region. 

Smith said many departments simply don’t have the staff available to go after grant dollars.  

“I think it’s lack of infrastructure. We have a developed a mature business office and others don’t.  … They’re too busy. They can’t.” 

Further, MCHD has proven it can handle this role. 

In late 2021, the department served as a pass-through agency, sub-granting $1 million in Health Resources & Services Administration grant dollars to health departments across multiple counties, including Marion, Preston, Harrison and Taylor. 

Going forward, MCHD Chief Financial Officer Devan Smith said he would like to develop a series of repeatable policies and procedures to be able to take on this regional role should MCHD go this route in the future. 

“We’re not afraid to go to the feds and be a pass-through. We can handle that,” he said, later adding, “We just applied for another $1.2 million grant. We are going to be aggressive in seeking out this funding and we will act as a pass-through if it suits us.” 

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