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Idaho Enterprise

Governor Speaks with City and County officials

Prior to the large public meeting on Saturday, Governor Little and Scott Bedke, as well as a number of other officials met with the city council and county officials to answer questions about issues relevant to the various offices involved.  The discussion ranged widely, and included a number of topics, such as the local school district, hospital district, county growth, funding, and others.

Also in attendance were Senators Mark Harris and Kelly Anthon, as well as a number of representatives of the various city and county departments in administrative positions.  

The discussion began with Jon Abrams, Superintendent of School District 351, discussing some of the issue facing local students.  One of the issues raised was finding teachers, and especially paraprofessionals to staff the classrooms.  The governor reported that paraprofessionals were in short supply across the state, but that he recognized Oneida was growing at a rate faster than many parts of the state.  It was noted that “many people who want to live somewhere without a lot of people around are moving here, which puts a bit of a strain on our local resources.”  

Abrams mentioned that the job of hiring teachers had been made easier by the ability of teachers to qualify for state insurance, which has created a roughly $900/month savings for families enrolled in it.  Another concern raised in conjunction with hiring teachers and paraprofessionals was the issue of housing for them.  A discussion of some of the development and building issues in the county was held.  Abrams discussed the upcoming bond election for a new school to replace the aging Malad Elementary building.  The district has secured the majority of the funding already, but is awaiting the passage of the bond to begin construction.

Other issues for discussion included the issue of mental/behavioral health, which affects the hospital, the school system, and the criminal justice system.  The governor explained that when $50 million were allocated for behavioral health across the state, it seemed like a large investment at the time.  However, perhaps partially as a result of the pandemic, need for mental health services have increased across has state in a number of areas.  In fact, the state is looking at building three new facilities to account for the demand among young people.

The governor discussed the potential upsides for online counseling and mediation, but was not yet sure where funding might be secured.  The hospital shared that they have recently started offered telepsychiatry on a limited basis (at present twice a month), which they have increased from a once monthly offering.

Some other mediation strategies, including Recovery programs, were mentioned by the governor.  A Youth Ranch facility has begun offering recovery services in conjunction with an equestrian program that has been showing promising results.

The issue of staffing for health care facilities was raised.  Bedke, Anthon, and Harris all supported funding $80 million for in-demand workers, which included health care workers, recently.  

The governor was also asked about issues related to the DMV, redistricting, bond levies, and other items, though time was cut short in order to accommodate the public meeting.