Health of residents was county focus in 2020
December 21, 2020
By County Manager Chris Coudriet
New Hanover County is committed to keeping our community safe, healthy and secure.
In 2020, that commitment was even more profound as the county and our Public Health team helped residents navigate COVID-19, responding to the needs of the community and prioritizing the health of residents above all else.
The county assisted 130 small businesses (82 of which are minority and women-owned businesses) with $10,000 grants, for a total of $1.3 million in local business support; and an additional $1.3 million was provided for housing assistance and childcare assistance for local families – all through CARES Act funding.
Health and Human Services staff have also been a valuable resource to our business community, providing hundreds of consultations to help businesses reopen and operate safely to keep their staff and customers protected.
The county is working hand-in-hand with state and local partners to ensure everyone in our community who is willing and able can receive a COVID-19 vaccine, with priority distribution to those at highest risk of exposure or severe illness. This is some of the most important Public Health work I’ve ever seen, and it will continue throughout 2021 to help ensure our community is protected.
I am proud of how New Hanover County has responded to COVID-19, and the work we have done and will continue to do to support our businesses and our residents during this unprecedented time.
2020 also brought one of the most important decisions that the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners has ever made, securing healthcare for generations to come, by joining county-owned New Hanover Regional Medical Center with Novant Health.
This decision came after a 15-month exploration process that involved the tremendous work of the Partnership Advisory Group, made up of dedicated community residents, doctors, and NHRMC Trustees members, who unanimously recommended our local hospital system partner with Novant Health.
As I write this, the county, NHRMC and Novant Health are actively working together on the closing process and we expect the closing to take place in the first quarter of 2021. At that time, Novant Health will purchase NHRMC from New Hanover County for $1.5 billion, invest more than $3 billion in growing and advancing NHRMC’s services in the area, and work to expand the hospital’s relationship with UNC Health and UNC School of Medicine – which will enhance medical education already in place, expand a children’s clinical service-line partnership with UNC Children’s Hospital, and develop research clinical trials and population health studies programs.
Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman said it well during the board’s vote in October: “By partnering with Novant and UNC, selling our hospital, and investing the proceeds into our community – we are securing healthcare for generations to come. We are promising a better quality of life, more access to care, greater innovation and technology, enhanced academic experiences, and less health disparities. We are guaranteeing safe, high-quality, cost-effective care for every person.”
I think that is spot on, and I believe this investment into our hospital system and into our community will be transformational and life-changing for our county.
The net proceeds from the purchase, which include $1.5 billion from the sale and around $440 million in the hospital’s current net assets, will go to directly benefit the community – with the majority of proceeds, an estimated $1.25 billion, invested in the New Hanover Community Endowment.
The Community Endowment has now been established with its Board of Directors, made up of a diverse and committed group of our county’s residents, and their work will provide millions of dollars in support for our community’s highest needs and most pressing issues for years to come. I can’t overstate the impact that this organization is going to make on our residents, our nonprofits, and our community as a whole.
In addition to the Community Endowment, the county will utilize $300 million of hospital proceeds for a County Revenue Stabilization Fund that we can use as a reserve fund for emergency response, debt relief, and tax and fee stabilization. Having this fund positions the county to be able to respond to anything that comes our way – pandemics, hurricanes, recessions, and everything in between.
The county will also establish a $50 million Mental and Behavioral Health Fund that will be used for initiatives that expand access to mental health services independent of state assistance, fund evidence-based programs, provide capital funding for long-term treatment facilities, as well as other much-needed assistance. This fund has the power to change the course of so many lives who need help that isn’t readily available today.
I believe that 2021 will be an important year in the life of New Hanover County. We will be helping our community recover from COVID-19 and we will be implementing impactful programs, funds, and an Endowment that will transform our community and make us stronger.
I look forward to the opportunities that are ahead and to serving this community, alongside the 1,947 dedicated public servants who make up our New Hanover County team.
Here’s to a safe, healthy and secure 2021.