Aimed to serve the needs of citizens and educate them on proactive approaches to one's health, Douglas County hosted a town hall to provide details on the new health department.
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The Jan. 19 town hall had nearly 2,000 people join online. Questions from the public included how childcare facilities and restaurants are inspected, how homeless people in the county are able to access community health services, and if the county has finalized a policy regarding gray water dumping.
The 2023 budget for the department is $7.4 million. Of that total, $4.5 million is from state or federal funding, $2 million is coming from Douglas County’s General Fund, and $900,000 from service fees.
“Overall, we are saving $700,000 a year in taxpayer money over our previous annual contribution to Tri-County Health,” said Commissioner and Vice President of the Board of Health, Lora Thomas.
Governed by the Board of Health, the Douglas County Health Department has been approved for 41 employees. At the time of the town hall, 35 positions had been filled.
According to the director of the health department, Michael Hill, they are going through a careful interviewing and hiring process.
One of the services that will be provided is community health and clinical services.
“I oftentimes say when we’re talking about community health, we’re really talking about relationships and partnerships,” said Assistant Director of Community Health Laura Larson.
Within the community health division, the department will provide clinical services through a federally qualified health center, STRIDE Community Health Center, which has a location in Parker.
In December, three Douglas County residents utilized their services.
As part of community health, education will include information, awareness and promotional programs that cover chronic disease prevention and management, substance misuse, suicide prevention, fall prevention, sexually transmitted infection prevention and tobacco education.
In addition, there is a maternal health program, a nurse support program in partnership with the Department of Human Services Child Welfare program and a special supplemental nutrition program, otherwise known as Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
A partnership between the Sheriff's Office and the county's Mental Health Initiative will focus on behavioral health, suicide prevention and substance misuse. Part of the Mental Health Initiative is the Community Response Team in which behavioral health and law enforcement are actively addressing the needs of those in crisis.
It is planned to have nine community response teams, two dedicated to children in school by the end of the year according to Thomas.
Other areas of service include Emergency Preparedness and Response, Disease Surveillance, Vital Records - which includes birth and death certificates - and Environmental Health, which focuses on inspections of restaurants, food trucks, grocery stores, pools, childcare facilities and septic systems.
To learn more about the services provided by the health department and questions asked throughout the town hall, click here.
The town hall panel also included County Commissioner and Board of Health member George Teal; Environmental Health Assistant Director Caitlin Gappa; Emergency Preparedness and Disease Surveillance Manager Jon Surbeck; and Health Administration Manager Steve Montanez.
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