The Jefferson County Health Department will end its home-health care service at the end of the month after determining the program can no longer sustain itself.

The local department was the last health department in the state to operate its own home-health program, said Health Administrator Tammy Monroe.

The county-run, home-care services in Indiana started in the 1960s - the Jefferson County program started in 1963 - as a public service function, but the project dwindled as greater availability to private home-care services arose across the state

The county health board voted to discontinue the program at its first meeting of the year in January. The service will officially end Feb. 28.

The program employs two full-time workers and 10 part-time workers. The workers provide living assistance and personal care to clients.

Monroe said the decision to end the program did not come lightly.

"We hated to give it up," she said. "We love all of our employees, and it was a very difficult decision."

The board decided the program could no longer sustain itself due to recent reimbursement cuts to Medicaid and Medicare, county insurance increases this year and the federal health care overhaul.

In the last quarter of 2013, the program did lose money but ultimately ended the year $11,000 under budget, Monroe said. That money will be put into the county's general fund, while the funds allocated for this year's program will not be used.

About 10 years ago - as similar programs around the state had already ended - Monroe said the local health board agreed to maintain the home-health care service under the condition that the service sustain itself and not become a cost for taxpayers.

"We projected that this year that program is not going make the county money, (it would have) cost the taxpayers," Monroe told the County Council on Tuesday.

Monroe said if the health department's service was the only such program in a 50-mile radius, she and the board would be more inclined to keep it open. However, she said the area has several local home-health care agencies to cover the department's client list.

In fact, the department will have transferred each of its 80 clients to different agencies by the end of the week, she said.

"We've been working close with our case workers to get other agencies to provide the services," she said.

Many of the county's home-care workers also have found different career opportunities, Monroe said.