MANSFIELD — Richland County will pay about 13 percent more to provide health insurance for county employees in 2024.

County commissioners approved the insurance plan on Tuesday during a meeting with Rachel Troyer, the county’s central services coordinator, and Andrew Keller, the county administrator.

Richland County is part of the County Employee Benefits Consortium of Ohio, a 46-county pooled health insurance that the county joined in 2017.

County employees will also increases in their contributions, though that number will vary based on collective-bargaining agreements and departments.

The county has about 570 employees, though some townships and other governmental entities also participate in the county’s plan. Combined with employee family members, there are about 1,200 people insured under the plan.

Richland County Commissioner Tony Vero listens Tuesday morning.

The county’s portion of the insurance benefits cost was about $3.8 million in 2022, a figure which rose to about $4.1 million in 2023. That could jump to about $4.6 or $4.7 million in 2024, based on the 13 percent increase.

It’s likely that health insurance costs will account for about 10 percent of the county’s general fund expenses next year, commissioners said.

The average increase for counties int CEBCO plan next year was 7.7 percent. Richland County was one of eight that will pay an additional 13 percent.

In June, CEBCO senior benefits analyst Wendy Dillingham said a first-quarter analysis showed the insurance program was paying out more in benefits than it’s taking in through premiums.

She said the costs are being seen throughout the CEBCO program.

“It isn’t just Richland County that is experiencing it overall, everybody is. We still are looking at this as somewhat of a bounce back from the (COVID-19) pandemic,” Dillingham said.

Richland County Commissioner Cliff Mears speaks on Tuesday morning.

Troyer told commissioners a significant driver in the rising health care costs are prescription drugs.

“It’s a huge, major issue,” she said. “We’re seeing it not only here, but you know the news stories (across the country), the pharmaceutical companies are just raking us over the coals.”

Commissioners said there could changes to the insurance plans offered by the county in 2025 if costs continue to rise.

Homeless Response Team funded for second year

Also on Tuesday, Commissioner Tony Vero provided an update on the ongoing Homeless Response Team effort in the City of Mansfield.

He said that Joe Trolian, the Richland County Mental Health and Recovery Services executive director, has obtained grant funding to continue for a second year. He said the Richland County Foundation funded the program for the first year.

It was Trolian who helped design the program that launched in May 2022 — which matched social workers with Mansfield police officers to hit the streets and meet unhoused residents in downtown’s Central Park and other locations.

Trolian’s office helped fund social workers through Catalyst Life Services. The social workers were joined by off-duty Mansfield police officers, who signed up to work in details funded by a grant through the RCF.

Richland County Commissioner Darrell Banks

The program’s goals were two-fold: Spend time trying to find out what it is these unhoused residents need. Then work to connect those needs to resources readily available in the community.

“We have been receiving, downtown Mansfield is receiving, very positive feedback from the downtown businesses in particular, and they actually asked for some increased presence,” Vero said.

“They like seeing the officers and the social workers coming around. So we’ve also altered the shifts. We’re presently doing about three shifts a week. We are now going to move to one of those shifts being completely dedicated to foot patrol in the downtown area.

“We’ve seen the benefits. We’re continuing to keep the plan going, but also tweaking it and revising it as it fits the needs of the community. So we’ll have another year at least, of the Homeless Response Team and they will be adding a foot patrol to one of the shifts,” Vero said.

City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when...