St. Joseph County leaders reject CDC grant, cite COVID, federal rules


District 2 commissioner Derek Dieter, District 1 commissioner and president Andrew Kostielney and District 3 commissioner Deborah Fleming during the Saint Joseph County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021 at the County City Building in South Bend.

St. Joseph County Commissioners on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would bring $3 million in federal grants for health outreach efforts to minority communities, saying they feared accepting the money could mean falling under federal COVID-19 restrictions.

The 2-1 vote came about a month after the Elkhart County Council voted unanimously against letting that county’s health department receive the same grant, a move that factored into Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Bethany Wait’s decision to resign.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the St. Joseph County commissioners, who serve as the government’s executive branch, Health Officer Dr. Robert Einterz seemed frustrated as he tried to convince Commissioner Derek Dieter that the grant would not obligate the county to follow COVID-19 directives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Robert Einterz, St. Joseph County health officer

The commissioners previously had authorized the health department to apply for the grant, which it won from the federal agency.

More:Elkhart County health officer to resign after clash with county council and threats

Einterz and Cassy White, the health department’s director of health equity, epidemiology and data, told the commissioners that the grant would fund eight new community health workers, adding to three current such positions.



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