Niagara Cerebral Palsy expects to take over Niagara County's hearing aid dispensing program as of Jan. 1.
Responding to County Manager Gregory D. Lewis' push to drop as many non-mandated programs as possible, the Health Department deleted the hearing aid program from its 2006 budget request.
Stacy Lampman, the Health Department's clinical director of programs for children and adults with special needs, said an effort will be made to keep the set-up almost exactly as it is now.
Niagara Cerebral Palsy will rent the same space the hearing aid program uses now in the Shaw Building here and in the Trott Access Center in Niagara Falls.
And the single county audiologist who works in the program will join the not-for-profit agency.
"We'll be hiring that same individual," said John J.M. Reardon, deputy director of Niagara Cerebral Palsy. "He's very happy with that."
Reardon, who headed the county's speech, hearing and language program until leaving the Health Department in 2001, said the salary and benefits will be similar to the county's.
Lampman said the county charges private patients $850 for a hearing aid, but about 80 percent of the patients are Medicaid clients. She said the county is sending out notification letters to about 350 patients who received physician referrals. The speech, hearing and language program is budgeted at $69,281 this year. "It's always been a break-even proposition for us," said Lampman.
Lewis said the hearing aid dispensing was a prime candidate to be spun off, because there are several private sector alternatives in the county.
But he's not so sure about the speech pathology program, which he said is closely integrated in the mandated early intervention and preschool special education programs the county is required to offer.
He also questions whether there are adequate private-sector alternatives for speech pathology within Niagara County.
Daniel J. Stapleton, financial operations director for the Health Department, said the department budget cut county cost by $711,000, or about $200,000 more than Lewis asked it to.