As we come to the end of 2011, the Washington County Health Department would like to provide an overview of some of the issues and projects it has been a part of during the year. Although not a complete list of all that WCHD has accomplished or carried out as part of its regular charges, those listed below have either been in the news the most frequently or have provided an additional opportunity for the health department to serve the residents of Washington County.
The Southeastern Dental Clinic was reopened in February after a brief closure in November of 2010. A new dentist was hired and new policies regarding services provided and patients seen was put into place. The clinic moved to a new location in September and was able to expand the number of patients seen in any clinic day. Grants were received from the Marietta Community Foundation, the Marietta Memorial Hospital Foundation, and the Sisters of St. Joseph Charitable Fund to assist with the move and the purchase of additional equipment for the clinic. As of the end of Nov. 1, 776 patients had been seen at the clinic. Other changes have also occurred. Emergency visits are scheduled within one working day. College students may be seen at a reduced rate with the presentation of a current college ID. The sliding fee scale remains in place for those patients without dental insurance. Ohio Medicaid is billed for those eligible under a Medicaid plan. We hope that these changes and future plans will allow for this clinic to operate in Washington County for a long time to come.
Every year, the public health nursing program within WCHD provides influenza vaccine clinics throughout Washington County. One of the most successful activities associated with this activity is the yearly drive-thru clinic held at the Health Department. This year, WCHD was able to combine the immunization activity with the Washington County Sheriff's Office in a drug take-back opportunity. We hope that this collaborative effort will be held again in 2012.
The flu season is just beginning to hit and WCHD expects to see more influenza associated illness in the next few months. It is not too late to get flu shots and WCHD still has a small amount of vaccine available. Immunization clinics will be held at the Health Department on Wednesdays from 1 to 6 p.m. and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. These clinic hours will not change during the holidays.
At the end of 2010, the Washington County Health Department became part of a statewide program for issuance of birth abstracts. Under this program, any person born in the Ohio can receive a birth abstract through WCHD and no longer needs to contact the county of birth. These abstracts are legal documents and meet the requirements for Social Security and driver license applications. The number of abstracts the health department has issued has increased considerably through this program. WCHD is happy to provide this service to the residents of Washington County.
There have been many programs provide throughout Washington County through the Creating Healthy Communities Grant. WCHD has been able to work with communities throughout the county in providing wellness activities, community gardens, playground upgrades and expansions, and educational opportunities for the area related to smoking cessation or activities in reducing childhood obesity. Unfortunately, funding for these projects may be cut in the next federal budget and thus funding on the local level will also be reduced. Hopefully, the communities will be able to support continuation of these well managed activities.
There has been much in the press in the past few months regarding the Woodlawn Acres Sewer project. There is no doubt that one solution to dealing with failing septic systems and to prevent additional problems would be to provide sewer for this entire area. In 2002 this was the directive from the Washington County Board of Health to the county commissioners. However, the board of health is continuing to work with the county commissioners in exploring options for this subdivision. It is hoped that alternative options could be found in 2012 that would be acceptable to the homeowners as well at meet requirements of the OEPA.
As we look forward to 2012, the Washington County Health Department will strive to provide for public health activities. However, it will again be facing serious budget cuts to some of the programs offered. We hope that we hear from our constituents as to the need to continue some of the programs we have been so successful in managing. We need your input through letters or email or attendance at board of health meetings. Call the WCHD at (740) 374-2782 for more information.
The Washington County Health Department wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and a Healthy New Year!
Kathleen Meckstroth is executive director of the Washington County Health Department, 342 Muskingum Drive, Marietta.