Dubuque County Health Department Proposes To Double Staff Size With Federal Funds | News from the three states

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In her pitch to receive a portion of the county’s federal relief dollars, the executive director of the Dubuque County Health Department proposed adding three full-time employees to address the disparities she says the pandemic of COVID-19 has put the emphasis.

Patrice Lambert said she sees her chance to finally grow her department and services with a portion of the nearly $ 19 million the county receives.

“Even before the pandemic, due to understaffing, we were not able to fully focus on the 10 essential public health services,” she told the Telegraph Herald.

As defined by the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these services include assessing the health of the population and the factors that influence it, diagnosing and treating health problems, mobilizing partnerships for improving health, implementing policies and laws that impact health, using legal actions and regulations. improve and protect health and build a diverse and qualified health workforce.

“We have to look at equity and we are trying to coordinate health and social services,” Lambert said. “The health and well-being of our residents of Dubuque County are affected much more than just medical care: environmental issues, housing, transportation, access to healthy food. “

Currently, the county health department consists of Lambert, deputy director Samantha Kloft, environmental health specialist Collin Dolphin and part-time clerk Bailey Avenarius.

Lambert’s proposal would add three more full-time employees – a lifestyle specialist, a health services surveillance specialist, and a community education and outreach specialist – and make the office clerk a full-time. County supervisor Ann McDonough estimated the moves would cost an additional $ 400,000 per year.

The additions would allow the department to focus more on areas that officials have hoped to tackle for years.

“We’re already looking at these components, but we’re just touching the surface knowing there are so many drawers underneath,” Lambert said.

She cited drug addiction as an example.

“We know that drug addiction and opioid use is still a problem,” Lambert said. “But we don’t have anyone to hire another committee to look at the data.”

This would be one of the objectives of the specialist in the surveillance of health services.

“They would work with these types of projects, but also a lot with our health units,” Lambert said. “If (schools) see obesity on the rise in physical exams at school, they will contact us in October and say ‘We see obesity is on all the charts.’

This position would also help to continue and strengthen ties with health care providers, including brain care providers, who trained during the pandemic.

The community education and outreach specialist would help coordinate with county-wide partners – including city governments, schools and businesses – to educate the public on health issues. Lambert said his ministry has had problems with this in the past.

“When we brought our radon test kits, I emailed the city clerks and asked ‘Can you help us (promote) these?’ She said. “It was then for them to say: ‘Yes’ or’ No. We did not have time to develop the educational component of its importance. “

The lifestyle specialist would carry out health needs assessments at the local and state level, collecting data on diet, nutrition and physical health. The person would also work as a liaison between the department and the Dubuque County Food Policy Council – a job Kloft does now.

Kloft’s deputy director position would be shifted in part to focus more on grant writing and budget matters for the department.

County supervisors recently approved a contract with Limestone Bluffs RC&D to act as Food Policy Council staff, including reporting regularly to the Board of Supervisors.

The county has also just renewed its contract with the Visiting Nurse Association for $ 308,000 this fiscal year. The association acts on the front line of the county health service. VNA director Stacey Killian said the equivalent of 30.8 full-time employees contributes to the work for Dubuque County. These employees provide vaccination clinics, oral health services, work with sexual health and adult health education.

The size and shape of county health departments are diverse in Iowa.

The VNA acts as the entire Clayton County Health Department. Jackson County has two full-time and one part-time health workers. These counties have a fraction of the population of Dubuque County.

Among the counties closest to the population of Dubuque County, Story County completely outsources its public health functions to the Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames. Pottawattamie County manages all in-house services, including a clinic.

This is just one of the arguments supervisors will consider before spending American Rescue Plan Act money on their choices in November.

McDonough liked Lambert’s needs assessment, but questioned whether the Department of Health’s proposal met federal money targets.

“What you are proposing is 3.25 permanent employees… another annual budgetary expense of about $ 400,000,” she said. “So the expenses you are proposing are paid for by the rescue funds, the budget does not exist in the long run. “

Lambert said if the funding can be used to kickstart this expansion of his department, then the resulting staff could seek grants and other programs to cover the costs.

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