House Bill 129, sponsored in part by District 62 State Rep. Philip Pratt, will benefit the state health department districts by providing new definitions of key terms, regulating employment guidelines and establishing directives to define core, foundational and local health programs.
WEDCO District Health Department and Home Health Agency in Georgetown serves Scott, Nicholas and Harrison counties as well as Bourbon County Home Health services. WEDCO Public Health Director Dr. Crystal Miller was part of the advisory committee that provided information to legislators writing the bill. Miller looks forward to the positive impact the new measures will have on WEDCO, she said.
“In the past we have been a sort of catch all for public health, what ever the need was in the community, we tried to provide that. But we realized we were using a lot of resources helping with programs that were available somewhere else,” said Miller. “We recently discontinued our cancer information program for example, because we saw duplicity in the system. That information was being provided by other partners in health care and it didn’t make any sense for us to concentrate our resources on that subject.
“We are looking forward to concentrating on population health.”
Population health, as defined by House Bill 129, is the development and support of policies and practices to address, change and improve health outcomes through community education and partnership development.
The health district has many successful partnerships such as the police department, county schools and local businesses, Miller said.
“We partner with local businesses to provide flu shots for their employees,” she said. “It’s easier for us to bring a team to their locations and get everyone immunized right there.”
The role of the health department in the community is changing, according to Miller.
“Ten years ago, everyone was coming to the health department to get a flu shot, now you can get them anywhere, but people still associate our purpose to vaccinations and that’s just one part of our outreach,” Miller said. “When I ask a a group of people ‘How many of you use the health department?’ very few will raise their hands. Then I remind them that if they go out to dinner, they are benefiting from our services through restaurant inspections.
“We are also the organization that works with the city code enforcement when environmental concern arise.”
Of the myriad of services the department offers, education, Miller said, is the biggest piece of the mission. The department has recently introduced a new effort called Caring for Our Community Coalition. The coalition will identify specific health concerns in the four-county area and then partner with appropriate resources to educate citizens regarding the issues.
The first seminar presented by the coalition is an opioid response-education seminar, on March 4, from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Scott County Public Library. The seminar will feature speakers from many organizations, from health care professionals and treatment centers to a history of the epidemic and a presentation from a former addict who will share her journey as she struggles to recover from her drug addiction.
Terrice May, WEDCO community heath promotions manager encourages the public to attend, she said.
“These panel of experts will provide an education that we hope will change some peoples ideas about what it means to have an opioid addiction,” said May.
“This addiction is a disease, a medical condition where the brain has essentially been highjacked.”
May hopes the education will help lift the stigma of addiction, she said, adding that 70 percent of people who are addicted to opioids were originally exposed to the painkillers by a prescribing physician and not, as many people believe, by a desire to get high.
May also hopes many faith based ministry leaders will attend the seminar, she said. Local churches often have support groups geared toward people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. May believes the information at the seminar will broaden their understanding of the opioid crisis and educate the ministry leaders on the resources available to them in community.
Jackie Anders can be reached at email@example.com.