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Health department commits to more outreach

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

It took some creative thinking for the Henry County Health Department to keep their nursing department staffed while the county was struggling with finances last year.

By increasing fees in the last half of the year, the health department was able to bring in enough money to reopen a full-time position for Public Health Nurse Liz Vincent.

The county public health office can now increase its hours to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday, closed noon to 1 p.m. for lunch.

The office is closed Wednesday so local health officials can follow up with patients, work on outreach and do case investigations for communicable diseases. The health department is also working on a project to protect the inmates and staff at Henry County Jail.

The public health office does blood draws once a month for cholesterol and a comprehensive metabolic panel for $50.

“You don’t need a doctor’s appointment or anything. You just walk in and get it done,” Vincent said.

She told the Henry County Health Board last week the services have been very successful.

“We’re looking at maybe adding a second draw site... so it’ll be more available to people,” Vincent said.

The Henry County Health Department is looking at ways to expand the service into Blountsville, Lewisville, Knightstown and Middletown.

Health department administrator Angela Cox has also been working with administrators at Henry County Jail to find time with public health officials can vaccinate inmates against Hepatitis A.

Jail inmates are the highest risk population in Henry County for getting the disease. That means correctional officers and other staff in the jail are also at risk.

“In the long run, it will be in the county’s best interest,” said health board member Brooke Cowan. “The sooner we get in there, the better.”

Cowan said she doesn’t want to see someone get Hep A just because they are in jail.

Cox said the health department also plans to restart testing for Hepatitis C and HIV in the inmate population. The new test can give results back within 20 minutes, Cox said.

Henry Community Health is helping the health department cover the cost of the some of the Hep C test, as well.

Cox is also excited about a grant opportunity to help get more primary care and mental health care in New Castle schools.

Financial Report

Cox went over the health department’s financial report Thursday.

The “Health Fund” is funded in part by department fees. That fund is project to increase over the next three years.

The “Health Maintenance Fund” has decreased steadily over the past decade as private insurance has begun covering more vaccinations for clients.

Cox talked to the health board Thursday about the joint resolution from the Henry County Council and Commissioners that all departments reduce spending by 2 percent this year.

“That would amount to about $10,000 for us,” Cox said. “If we cut something, it will have to be a position ... hours in the part-time budget.

“We’re just kind of numbed about that right now and trying to figure out what we’re going to do and how that’s going to work,” Cox added.

Cox said she is encouraged by the new Henry County Council and the work they’ve done to help the health department over just the past few months.

The Henry County Health Board meets again May 16.