Commissioners hear FlexVoice presentation

NEW ULM — Brown County commissioners unanimously approved creating an ad-hoc committee to further research county options to provide phone service to county buildings Tuesday.

A New Ulm Telecom FlexVoice presentation by Mike Furth included options that would save the county money compared to its current Centrex phone system if three, five or seven-year contracts on a phone system estimated to cost $17,000 were approved.

“The longer the commitment, the deeper the discount,” Furth said. “The savings come from lower tax rates (on the phone system over time)… The Centrex phone system the county now uses is at the end of its life due to an obsolete switch.”

Furth said the current Brown County phone system must be replaced by Dec. 31. He said Brown County would not have to pay to maintain the FlexVoice program.

“Our internal (phone) infrastructure has to change whether or not we host the system,” said Brown County IT Director Rich Meyer.

In addition, Meyer wrote in his board action request that it may be in the best interest of the county to have an outside consultant review what it would take to purchase from an outside vendor and compare it to FlexVoice costs.

“The consultant would be able to give us a return on investment for all systems considered,” Meyer wrote. “I feel we need to spend some more time on this project to make sure we are making the best choice. At the very least, I suggest forming an ad-hoc committee with the IT Direct, an IT staff member, administrator and a commissioner to analyze costs and options moving forward.”

Commissioners also:

• Heard an explanation regarding a medical assistance waiver bill for a therapeutic squeeze machine Tuesday. Brown County Autism Social Worker Kallie Schugel explained what the machine does and why it costs what it does. The explanation provided many other aspects of services that a family with an autistic child needs and receives from the county and the medical assistance waiver program.

The squeeze machine is used for deep touch stimulation and produces a calming effect on hyperactive and autistic individuals. It can be used by children and adults because it is adjustable in several ways.

Schugel said the medical assistance waiver of up to $3,909 in federal and state funding is available to eligible applicants.

• Authorized Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate (ALICE) safety training for courthouse staff after regular business hours, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 16. Brown County Sheriff’s Office investigator Eric Schwarzrock will provide the training including two, separate 90-minute classroom sessions in the afternoon of Oct. 16. Courthouse offices will remain staffed during that time.

• Heard a public health update from Brown County Public Health Director Karen Moritz. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released new articles and tools on the over-prescribing of opioids, including interactive maps that show prescribing rates by county.

After a steady increase in the overall national opioid prescribing rate from 2006, the total number of prescriptions dispensed peaked in 2012 at more than 255 million and a prescribing rate of 81.3 prescriptions per 100 persons.

The overall national prescribing rate declined from 2012 to 2016. In 2016, the prescribing rate fell to the lowest it has been in more than 10 years at 66.5 prescriptions per 100 persons (over 214 million total opioid prescriptions), according to the report.

The Brown County prescribing practices rate has been declining 72.5 in 2014; 67.6 in 2015, and 56.6 in 2016. This is one part of reducing opioid addiction.

The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released an interim report. Among the recommendations:

• Declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act.

• Rapidly increase treatment capacity.

• Mandate prescriber education.

• Immediately establish and fund a federal incentive to enhance access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT).

• Provide model legislation for states to allow naloxone dispensing via standing orders, and requiring the prescribing of naloxone with high-risk opioid prescriptions;

• We must equip all U.S. law enforcement with naloxone to save lives.

• Provide federal funding and technical support to states to enhance interstate data sharing among state-based prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs).

The update added that there is a national movement to raise the legal age to buy tobacco to 21 instead of 18. Research shows raising the legal sale age known as “Tobacco 21” would greatly reduce youth tobacco use and prevent kids from starting to smoke, according to a 2015 Institute of Medicine report.

Edina was the first Minnesota local jurisdiction to raise its legal tobacco age to 21, effective July 1. Mankato and North Mankato are considering raising the legal tobacco age.

• Approved a $22,974 low base bid from Global Infrastructure, LLC for the Wellner-Hageman Dam repair project. The bid includes a $37,956 alternative bid to replace a sluice gate. The J.F. Brennan Co. Inc. base bid was $26,250 and a $70,000 alternative bid to replace a sluice gate.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.