Strict government mandates could leave the county without critical health services –
By Patricia Beech –
Are residents in danger of losing their local Health Department?
The short answer is yes! The longer answer – yes, if the department fails to the meet the state standards required for accreditation.
The Ohio Board of Health has mandated that all county health departments become accredited – a lengthy and costly process which places the very existence of many rural health departments in jeopardy.
Every county health department in Ohio must pay an initial $14,000 application fee, according to Dr. William Hablitzel, Commissioner of the Adam’s County’s Health Department.
“In cities and larger counties that application fee isn’t an issue,” Hablitzel explains. “The money we get to take care of the community and the people comes from the villages and the townships, and they can’t give anymore, they’ve given their all.”
The current funding provided by the county’s villages and townships will be inadequate to meet the bill for accreditation, so this November Adams County voters are being asked to pass a county-wide, five- year, .05 mill health services levy to ensure that county residents will continue to have local Health Department services.
Additionally, Hablitzel says that funding the Health Department through a levy will allow townships and villages to keep more of their own money for the benefit of their citizens.
So what will it cost? The average Adams County property owner should expect to pay about $14 a year, less than a nickel a day. In return the community benefits from the basic, but critical services provided by the Health Department including: immunizations for children and school nurses, a free clinic for the uninsured and under-insured, inspections of retail food operations, septic systems, swimming pools, hotels, and campgrounds, tracking and preventing the spread of communicable diseases such as the flu, and the ability to respond to emergency situations such as floods and severe storms.
In short, the problems they solve makes them the government agency that the public cannot safely do without.
So, what happens if the levy doesn’t pass?
“The director of the Ohio Department of Health has made it clear that he will have our responsibilities reassigned to other county health departments,” said Hablitzel. “That’s what we risk if we do not become accredited, having outsiders and other communities deciding what happens in our county.”
Hablitzel says he prefers a “neighbors helping neighbors” approach at the Health Department. “The state rules and codes have to be followed,” he explains. “But there’s also ways to meet the spirit of the rules so that it fits the community, and that’s what we’re always trying to do. When we go out to inspect a septic system for instance, if repairs are needed, we will often call the Office of Economic Development and try to find a grant to help the people find funding for the repairs to their system. That’s the kind of service and attention to the community that I don’t think we’ll see if we have to bring in outsiders from other health departments to do the job.”
For more information about the Adams County Health Department call (937) 544-5547.