Health & Medicine

HealthFirst approves new board members

HealthFirst had planned to raze this building at 496 Southland Drive in Lexington and replace it with a clinic.
HealthFirst had planned to raze this building at 496 Southland Drive in Lexington and replace it with a clinic. Lexington Herald-Leader

The board of HealthFirst Bluegrass approved a list of new board members at a special meeting Wednesday in the next step in addressing months of upheaval.

The 12 members join three current members — Bill Rasinen, Elena Castro and James Sleet — who refused to meet the demands of the Board of Health to resign in September. The Board of Health also demanded, and received, the resignation of executive director William North.

The Board of Health provides HealthFirst, which operates a public health clinic, with $1.2 million a year in local taxes, and it threatened to withdraw that money if leadership didn't change.

The new board includes four members who resigned but were reappointed: Amanda Jason, T.A. Lester, Dr. John Loventhal and Joyce Walker. Other members appointed Wednesday were Len Heller, a retired vice-president at the University of Kentucky; Eric Herrin, a retired pharmacist; Janice James, deputy director of the Hope Center; Shadi Khalifa, a taxi driver; Flor Larios, a dental assistant; Geoff Reed, commissioner of general services for Lexington Fayette County Urban Government; lawyer Anne Tyler-Morgan; and nurse practitioner Linnie Toney.

Federal law requires that current patients of the clinic make up at least 50 percent of the HealthFirst Board.

Castro expressed concern that other potential board members, whose names were submitted by herself, Rasinen and Sleet, were not offered for approval.

Dr. Steve Davis, the interim executive director, said when the full board meets at another special meeting Nov. 14, it can decide whether to expand the number of board members. Davis said it's important for the board to resume full strength.

"We have a boatload of work to do," he said.

That includes beginning construction of an $11.7 million, federally financed clinic on Southland Drive and preparing to care for the thousands of previously uninsured people who will be eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act on Jan. 1.

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