Health Department: COVID 19 Didn’t Cancel Other Programs

Doug Berger/Herald The Douglas County Health Department in Ava, Missouri.

Staff of 17 Still Offer Health Screenings, Immunizations, Inspections, and More.

by Doug Berger

The Douglas County Health Department’s responsibilities extend beyond its involvement in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Even though Covid-19 has brought the Douglas County Health Department’s responsibilities in fighting the virus to the forefront, they have a wide ranging area of programs and responsibilities they must continue to administer.

The health department has had to change its approach to administering some of these programs because of the Covid-19 situation.

“Within the last couple of years we contracted with IDENTIGO to provide fingerprinting services for background checks. That was put on hold for a month during the Governor’s Stay at Home order. 

We also reduced services such as immunizations. Our Childcare Health Consultation program was temporarily put on hold as well, due to school closures. 

We began providing WIC services virtually for our clients, and did so until July. All of these actions were taken to limit person to person contact between clients and staff. 

We added protective barriers at employee’s desks to minimize risk of exposure as well as providing masks to clients. 

Some of our positions require outreach in the community, so we worked to train them in other areas so we could prevent layoffs. We were able to put some of those employees through the John’s Hopkins Contact Tracing course so those individuals could be utilized to help with the overall Covid-19 response activities,” Douglas County Health Department administrator Valerie Reese stated. 

The department has also seen other effects of Covid-19 in the community. 

“We have seen  decreases in the number of WIC clients as well as individual blood pressure screenings. Other services such as immunizations, pregnancy testing and other screenings are back to normal numbers,” she said.

“We have 14 employees at the health department and three contract staff for nutrition, environmental and emergency preparedness work. Our staff has really stepped up and adjusted to all the changes made due to the Covid-19 response, sometimes working seven days a week to conduct Covid-19 investigations and contact tracing. We are very appreciative of the strong partnerships with the schools, healthcare providers, first responders and others that have been and continue to be vital in successful Covid-19 response activities for our community,” she added.

But along with the department’s duties in receiving the reports of communicable diseases, such as Covid-19 cases, and conducting investigation and contact tracing, the department’s employees also have to keep up with many other areas.

Sonya Hodges, health educator with the department, outlined some of these programs:

Health screening

  • Blood pressure and BMI (body mass index) available daily during regular business hours.
  • Blood sugar checks-first Monday of month at Redbud Senior Housing, third Monday of the month at Ava Community Center.
  • Lead testing-by appointment only (children ages 9 months to five years).
  • STD testing-Monday through Thursday during business hours.
  • Occasionally offer cholesterol screens, about once each year.

Immunizations

  • The department provides free shots for children who have Medicaid, do not have insurance or have insurance that does not cover shots. Shots can be given during regular business hours on a walk-in basis. Persons need to bring child’s shot record.
  • Flu clinic-each year the department will conduct a flu shot clinic. This year the clinic was a drive-through clinic, because of Covid-19.

Restaurant, daycare and lodging inspections

  • The inspections are conducted at regular intervals with follow up inspections and actions if necessary.

Water testing

  • Water sample kits are available for pickup during regular business hours. The Missouri State Laboratory charges a fee for each water sample submitted to them for testing.

Vital records

  • Official copies of birth and death certificates can be purchased at the department. Certificates can only be printed for immediate family.

WIC (Women, Infant and Children)

  • Provides one on one nutrition education, individual breastfeeding support and supplies, breastfeeding classes, checks to buy healthy foods, free health screenings and Moms support group. Persons can call to get started with the program.

Prenatal case management program

  • Access to a registered nurse, regular weight and blood pressure checks, learn about baby’s development at each visit, find the support needed when complications arise, earn rewards for participating. Persons can contact the Prenatal Case Manager at 417-683-417 to see if they qualify.

Prevent T2 program-

  • Helps prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. The program offers access to trained lifestyle coaches, individual support and encouragement, weekly meeting, diabetes prevention education, nutrition education, cooking demonstrations and program incentives. Hodges explained that certain elements of the program are not currently being held in person because of Covid-19.

Behavioral Health Systems Change Grant

  • A three-year grant which started in February through the Missouri Foundation for Health. Douglas County is the lead county on the grant, which also covers Ozark, Wright and Texas Counties. The grant includes a media campaign to increase awareness of opioid misuse, a program to assist schools develop curriculum for coping skills for kids, allowed for the hiring of two community navigators to assist persons trying to recover from substance abuse. Part of the navigator’s job would be to assist someone trying to recover or in recovery to tackle the issues or barriers for their recovery. These could include such things as connecting them with resources which could help them find a job, housing or treatment.

Tobacco Cessation

Classes are not currently being offered, but if someone comes in they can do one on one counseling.

Visit the Douglas County Health Department online dchd.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/DouglasCountyHealthDepartment.