In spite of the economy and even with budget cuts to several of our programs, the Washington County Health Department has quite a bit to be thankful for as it looks back in 2011. We would like to share some of these with you, the people who support the work of the health department and rely on its services.
Last year at this time, the decision was made to temporarily close the dental clinic because of funding and the expressed desire of the dentist to retire. Through the dedicated efforts and determination of the dental clinic staff, who, in spite of their loss of jobs, worked to help find the necessary funding and work on revising the business plan for the clinic we were able to not only open the clinic once again in February, but also move to a new location where we can serve more members of the community. We are also thankful for the funders who helped make this happen. This week we are installing a new panoramic X-ray machine purchased through funding received from the Sisters of St. Joseph Charitable Fund. This equipment will make it possible for the dentist to have a better idea of the entire oral health picture of a patient.
The Creating Health Communities program, formerly the Cardiovascular Health program, has been in existence since 2003. Over the years, this program has evolved and brought partners throughout Washington County together in providing programs and services to help communities and individuals gain healthy lifestyle choices. Court Witschey, the coordinator for this program, has worked with schools, businesses, other governmental agencies, community centers, and community organizations to bring these programs and services to everyone in the county who is willing to participate. We are thankful for Witschey and the organizations and the individuals who have so willingly worked to share wellness activities with the residents of Washington County. Unfortunately, as we look ahead to 2012, this program will see a reduction in funding and possible elimination through reductions in the federal budget. We hope we can look to local partners and programs to help keep prevention strategies in place so that we can continue to offer this program.
The Washington County Health Department is thankful for changes to vital records laws that now allow WCHD to issue birth certificates for all people born in the state of Ohio. No longer do you need to travel to the county of your birth, but rather can contact the Washington County Health Department to receive this documentation. This change has brought increased activity and visibility to WCHD and provided a much improved service to the residents of Washington County.
WCHD is thankful for public health nursing services we can provide. These services and nursing staff were re-instituted after in 2000 after a year with no public health nurses. We now offer well child clinics, immunization clinics for children, adults and international travel, infectious disease investigations, HIV and Hepatitis C testing among other public health nursing responsibilities. Our public health nurse responsible for the Bureau for Children with Medical Handicaps or BCMH has contact with a number of families throughout Washington County and held coordinates services to meet their needs. We look forward to continuing the public health nursing services and hope to expand to cover the loss of such programs as family planning and prenatal clinics that until recently were provided through the Washington County Community Action Program. Hopefully, funding can be gained to allow this to happen.
Environmental staff has worked diligently this year to provide inspections of restaurants and food establishments, manufactured home parks, recreational park camps, swimming pools, water wells, and septic systems. They have also responded to nuisance complaints and investigated animal bites. We are grateful that we have knowledgeable staff who can respond to the many calls they receive. The commercial plumbing inspector has worked well in serving the communities within Washington, Noble and Monroe counties. WCHD hopes to be able to continue these services.
WCHD is also grateful for other programs that have served the community well. Of particular mention are the preparedness program and the dental sealant program. Both of these have extended their services into neighboring counties and communities and have been successful in delivering needed services to those areas they serve.
WCHD is grateful for its entire staff. They are dedicated county employees intent on serving the public. They serve the community and the Board of Health. None have received raises in since 2008. Their insurance costs at 19 percent and other employee expenses have increased with no additional compensation. In fact, most are taking home less pay than they received in 2002. Yet they continue to come to work every day and to do their best to serve the community. We should be grateful for these tireless workers.
WCHD is also grateful to the community for its support in being able to bring you the services we provide. We would like to hear from you to determine if we are meeting the community's need. Please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org by phone (740) 374-2782, or through Facebook to let us know what services are needed or where we need to improve. We do like to hear from those we serve. Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!
Kathleen Meckstroth is executive director of the Washington County Health Department, 342 Muskingum Drive, Marietta.