Frazier bill to dissolve Los Medanos Community Healthcare District passes committee

Would eliminate Antioch mayor’s job; Board President challenges Frazier whose district doesn’t include most of the healthcare district

By Serina Hartinger, Media & Communications, Office of Assemblymember Jim Frazier

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, Friday, April 16, 2021, Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Fairfield) passed AB 903 the Assembly Local Government Committee on a unanimous vote of 8-0 to dissolve the Los Medanos Community Healthcare District. The bill will now be sent to the Committee on Appropriations. If it passes there it will head to the floor for a vote by the full Assembly. Should it pass there, it still needs both State Senate approval and the governor’s signature before becoming law.

The Los Medanos Hospital closed in 1994 but the district, covering Pittsburg and Bay Point, has continued to exist, collecting property tax dollars and using the funds to pay for staff and provide grants to local organizations, direct service programs including a community garden and district sponsored programs including REading ADvantage for early literacy. The district’s 2020-21 Fiscal Year budget projects $1.13 million in tax revenue and $1.3 million in expenses.

“As all of you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed critical shortfalls in healthcare and health services funding across the state. Communities of color have been especially impacted by the emergency,” said Frazier. “Now more than ever, we have seen the life-changing impacts of devoting every possible dollar to serving those we represent. AB 903 is a district bill that takes strides towards addressing this issue. The bill effectively creates hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for badly needed healthcare services in the region.”

AB 903 will dissolve the Los Medanos Community Healthcare District and require the County of Contra Costa to be the successor of all rights and responsibilities of the district. AB 903 will also require the county to complete a property tax transfer process to ensure the transfer of the district’s health-related ad valorem property tax revenues to the county in order to operate the Los Medanos Area Health Plan Grant Program.

The Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) has approved of the dissolution of the existing healthcare district, and Contra Costa County already serves the communities within district boundaries.

The bill was co-sponsored by Assemblymember Tim Grayson, (D-Concord).

The Los Medanos Community Healthcare District (LMCHD) was formed in 1948 to operate the Los Medanos Community Hospital. In rural communities, such districts were created to provide for hospitals that otherwise would not exist. LMCHD operated the hospital until 1994 when the hospital closed due to bankruptcy. Since then, LMCHD has not provided any hospital, physician, or emergency medical services. Instead of providing direct services, LMCHD funds third-party agencies that provide health-related programs.

“This bill effectively creates hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for badly needed healthcare services in the region. A lot of this funding comes from the savings on LMCHD’s extremely high administrative expenses, which topped 60% in some years,” said Frazier. “That is simply unconscionable.”

“Comparable programs in the county average at about 15% admin cost, and a nearby healthcare district runs at a maximum of 20% in admin costs. Rather than lose over half the funding to wasteful administrative expenses, AB 903 dedicates those dollars to the community,” he added.

Some of those administrative expenses include the salary and benefits for Executive Director Lamar Thorpe who is the mayor of Antioch, whose job would be eliminated if the bill becomes law.

UPDATE: In response to efforts to reach him and Board President Patt Young, Thorpe provided the following letter from Young to Frazier.

“Dear Assemblymember Frazier:

On behalf of the Los Medanos Community Healthcare District, I am writing to you in response to your introduction of AB 903.

Given that 98 percent of our healthcare district does not fall within your assembly district, or the fact that you have never attempted to build a relationship with our board or programs, I am quite perplexed as to why you would introduce this legislation without attempting to understand how we serve eastern Contra Costa County.

This letter is not intended to be interpreted as an attempt to appeal to your reason or logic, as we are well aware of the fact that you are taking political orders from your top political advisor in an effort to turn our district into a political slush fund for one of your top allies on the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.

Let me be clear in stating that, although to you this is simply a political game, to our healthcare district, you are jeopardizing a critical healthcare prevention lifeline for many in our community. From free reading glasses for children to HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, many of the community members we serve participate in our programs because they do not feel that they have their needs met via Contra Costa’s public healthcare system.

Lastly, I have to state for the record that the manner by which you introduced this legislation has been interpreted to be highly disrespectful by both my board and community. I suspect that, if the makeup of our board were more in line with the makeup of the Oakley City Council, you would not have been as disrespectful as you have been to date.

Neither my board, nor my community will stand idly and accept to be treated in any manner less than the respect we deserve.

Sincerely,

Patt Young

President

Los Medanos Community Healthcare District”

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

 

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