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March 21
Different Counties, Different Needs

By Katie Bess


No two counties are the same and as a result their needs can vary substantially. Some counties in the United States have better transit availability, while in other counties access to public transportation is scarce. Another issue is access to health care services. Some counties have high population densities, with residents who live in close proximity to health care services or have access to transportation facilities to get to their appointments. In contrast, residents in rural areas may need to travel many miles to receive health care services. 

Some counties recognize the importance of increasing access to public transportation systems for their county residents and businesses. In 2008, five Minnesota counties — Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington — developed a Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB) in a regional effort to improve and revitalize the local transit system.  The counties individually authorized a one-quarter cent sales tax and a $20 motor vehicle excise tax to be invested in regional transit development.  Through the CTIB, the five counties work together and with the Metropolitan Council and Carver and Scott counties to determine the best investments in regional transit. 

On the health care side, San Diego County, Calif. developed SmartCare​,  a program aimed at servicing the physical and mental healthcare needs of San Diego County residents in rural areas. San Diego County spans 4,000 square miles, and is home to more than 3 million residents, many of whom live in rural areas. While working collaboratively with community clinics throughout the county, SmartCare created comprehensive one-stop wellness sites, making access to mental health, substance abuse and physical health care services easier. The program received a NACo Achievement Award in 2012. 

Many counties across the country are developing innovative programs to address the needs in their communities, large or small, urban or rural. NACo is always interested to hear counties’ stories, to find out the most innovative programs on the ground, and connect counties so they can learn from each other. If you know about an innovative program in your county, let us know at We are here to listen.


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