MOUNT VERNON — One positive aspect in 2008 for the Knox County Health Department, according to Health Commissioner Dennis Murray, is that the department continued to provide timely and quality public health services despite state budget cuts and a reduction in grant funding.
“However, the economic situation took its toll as the agency was forced to lay off two employees in the Health Promotions Division directly due to a funding decrease in tobacco prevention and a lack of funding in abstinence education,” Murray said at the board’s annual meeting Monday night.
Even so, said Murray, the agency continued to be the main provider of childhood shots. It also experienced an increase in patients in its dental and medical clinics. The department was able to maintain its level of quality home care services, Murray said, and made more than 10,000 home visits. In addition to administering more than 600 flu shots in October, the agency provided senior wellness clinics and participated in a number of events for families and children sponsored by WIC and the Help Me Grow programs.
Among its duties, the health department is charged with investigating violations of the Smoke Free Workplace Act. The environmental health staff investigated 53 smoking complaints in 2008. Of those, 39 were dismissed. Three warnings were issued, four $100 fines, one $1,000 fine and one $2,500 fine were levied for not prohibiting smoking in the workplace.
The WIC staff sponsored a veggie fest in March in conjunction with National Nutrition Month featuring a variety of vegetables and homemade salad dressings.
New school inspection criteria, referred to as Jarod’s Law, went into effect in 2008. Murray said the environmental health staff made numerous inspections using monitoring equipment provided by the Ohio Department of Health. This allowed the staff to monitor local schools for relative humidity and carbon dioxide levels. Other services provided to local schools included the administration of MMR shots to middle school students, presentations on puberty and nutrition, development of a policy for dealing with head lice and formulation of plans to deal with pandemic flu.
The latter was tested with an exercise to test preparedness procedures for a pandemic flu outbreak. The exercise involved 52 people representing 14 different agencies.
The high winds that were the remnant of Hurricane Ike last September also tested the agency’s preparedness.
“Unlike many health departments in the state, the Knox County Health Department was able to stay open thanks to a 100 kilowatt generator purchased two years ago with Homeland Security funds,” Murray said.
The winds knocked out power to 15,000 homes and businesses in Knox County alone. Nonetheless, Murray said, there was no lost time at the department during that week.
Brian Benick, environmental health services director, reported on the number of health nuisances and new sewer permits in the county. The statistics showed a general decline in reported health nuisances, with a few exceptions. Clinton Township showed an increase from 17 to 23 in 2008. Clay Township increased by seven, going from one to eight. Other areas show declines, however, with Berlin Township going from 10 to five and Howard Township going from 11 to five. Wayne Township had no nuisances in 2007 or 2008.