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Health department anticipates challenges

In his state-mandated annual report, Harrison County Health Dept. Administrator Anthony (Tony) Combs said 2013 was a year of continued improvement for the department and county.
‘We continued to grow into our new facility and improve our processes to better serve the public,’ he said.
The department, located in the Health and Education Building along Atwood Street in south Corydon (the old hospital complex), contains five divisions (public health nursing, environmental, MCH clinic, vital records and preparedness).
The Public Health Nursing Division continued providing vaccinations and other services.
Nurses hosted regional meetings with other public health nurses to share information and best practices and senior citizen sites were visited. Tuberculosis screenings and hepatitis B vaccines were given at numerous local businesses.
Health fairs were attended and a school vision screening was provided to a local school that is without a nursing staff.
Other services the department conducts include home health visits, communicable disease counseling, public health information, head lice treatment, colposcopy, biopsy and mammogram screening for at-risk populations and adult and child vaccinations. The nursing division typically administers 3,000 to 5,000 shots to adults and children each year and typically stores approximately $100,000 worth of all types of vaccines at the facility. Five hundred and seven flu shots were administered last year, the lowest figure of all years of the displayed data (since 2004). The highest figure was 6,750 in 2009.
By Indiana law, hospitals, physicians and labs must provide information to the health department about communicable diseases in the county. The following diseases were documented to have occurred in Harrison County in 2013: chlamydia, 26; ehrlichiosis, 1; giardia, 2; gonorrhea, 3; hepatitis A, 1; hepatitis B, 4; hepatitis C, 22; histoplasmosis, 3; lyme disease, 3; pelvic inflammatory disease, 2; rocky mountain spotted fever, 8; salmonella, 11; streptococcus pneumoniae, 3; streptococcus, group A, 1; trichinosis, 1; and tuberculosis, 1.
The Environmental Division continued training on new septic codes and other regulations changes.
Mosquitoes were counted and typed and soil tests were conducted in the new laboratory, also located in the Health and Education Building.
The division provides oversight of all private septic systems, including consultations for site selection and system design, contractor supervision during installation and final permitting.
The division works closely the Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management and the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources on trash and dump sites, which, unfortunately, Combs said, find a home in the secluded southern portions of the county along the Ohio River.
Mold, lead and other health hazards are mitigated and other duties include: inspection of public swimming facilities and pools for bacteria investigation of animal bites and testing of dead birds for diseases and mosquitoes for West Nile Virus.
The division issues more than 150 septic permits per year and periodically inspects the 180 restaurants and food providers in the county.
The Vital Records Division issues all birth and death certificates and works with physicians and funeral homes to assist with the statewide death registration system.
Statistics on causes of deaths are recorded and forwarded to other agencies. The division usually issues about 1,000 to 1,500 birth certificates and 1,500 to 2,000 death certificates per year.
Other than natural causes of death, cases in the county last year were as follows: auto accident, 12; multiple drug toxicity, 5; suicide by gunshot, 3; drowning, 2; homicide by gunshot, 1; homicide by blunt force, 1; homicide by stabbing, 1; fall, 1; and lawn mower accident, 1.
The MCH Clinic Division was expanded to surrounding counties that do not have clinics.
The Preparedness Division provides planning and response to health emergencies. It works closely with the Emergency Management Agency, Emergency Medical Services, fire departments, law enforcement and other agencies to provide assistance in the event of any threat to the public’s health. Plans are in place to assess the situation and provide command and/or administrative assistance. If the situation warrants, four health department employees are trained to the level of HAZ-MAT Operations to assist with on-scene operations. Ultimately, a mass clinic can be set up to administer vaccine/medication to the entire population of the county in the event of a bioterrorism attack or naturally occurring outbreak.
Also, as part of the preparedness division, Combs is a member of the official crew on the county’s new rescue boat.
‘I look back at all the changes of the past and look to the bright future ahead,’ Combs said. ‘We will continue to realize new and better ways of doing things and continue to look forward with anticipation to the challenges that are to come.’