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Health care fuels Jackson County hiring

Jackson County's employee count will top 1,000 in the coming year, with virtually all the new jobs related to Health and Human Services, County Administrator Danny Jordan told a Chamber of Medford/Jackson County audience Monday.

"It really is the place where a lot of energy is going in the county," Jordan said. "You see the new building (on Eighth Street), and that's all you see. If I had the chance to do it over, I might have picked a little better siding. But we are serving a ton of people and we are struggling to try to keep up with this. When I come back here next year and tell you we went from having from 900 employees to 1,000, it all has to do with health care expansion both last year and this year. When you see our operating budget increase, it all has to do with health care expansion."

At the same time, the general fund budget remains steady or reduced, he said during a 75-minute overview of county services and amenities.

"Year over year, we spend $16 million less per year operating the county than we did four years ago," he said. "At the same time, we're in the best financial condition we've ever been in."

Jackson County is under contract with the area's two coordinated care organizations — AllCare Health Plan and Jackson Care Connect — to provide mental health care for the county's 65,000 enrollees in the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid).

Health and Human Services has added 64 staff members this year and expects to add another 120 next year, Jordan said. The county's mental health staff is serving about 5,000 OHP clients, along with 1,150 developmentally disabled clients, he said.

The county is recruiting for 150 positions, ranging from social workers and case managers to psychiatric nurse practitioners and psychiatrists, he said.

"We are behind the curve in being able to treat this population for a couple of reasons," Jordan said. "No. 1, we didn't expect this population. The state didn't estimate anywhere near the number of people who ended up actually being on the Oregon Health Plan in our county. No. 2, everyone across the nation is competing for the same staff. We could hire six to 12 psychiatric nurse practitioners in our county; there are 4,000 in the entire United States."

Two months ago, Jordan offered a psychiatric nurse practitioner $310,000 annually, but got turned down.

"They chose another county in another state, where they were paid $400,000 a year," he said. "These aren't entry-level jobs, they require a master's, Ph.D.-level. That would actually be someone paid a lot more than me."

Among the array of facts and figures Jordan revealed were the number of critters on display and funnel cakes consumed at last year's county fair.

The 81,000 attendees were joined by 300 critters — swine, steer, goats and poultry, of which 226 were sold by 4-H members. Food vendors took in $220,000, including $13,000 (2,364 units) worth of funnel cakes. The 105-degree temperatures boosted sale of shaved ice to $23,000.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/EconomicEdge.