The director of the Ohio Department of Health was in London on Wednesday to pay a visit to the Madison County/London City Health District.
Director Richard Hodges has a goal to visit all 119 districts in the state. He spoke with Health Commissioner Mary Ann Webb about several topics, including one new program Webb said is putting a strain on her office.
The state legislature in 2014 mandated that all 119 health districts within the state become accredited with the National Accreditation Board. All districts, including Madison County, must apply for accreditation by 2018 and must be accredited by 2020.
If not, said Webb, the state “shall” withhold funding.
Right now the health department is spending its funds — in fees and man hours — to work toward accreditation. The initial fee is $14,000 to apply. Then to remain accredited over the next five years there is a $5,600 annual service fee.
The man hours required are those put in by department members who gather thousands of pages of documents needed for the application. Those pages need to be scanned and uploaded and it’s only accomplished with numerous individuals doing the work.
Webb and department heads meet every other week on their lunch hours to go over progress on accreditation.
In addition, she has had to hire an accreditation coordinator, whose annual salary and benefits add up to $33,550.
“We have to follow a strict form to follow, with logos on everything,” Webb said. “Hours spent doing accreditation work are pulled away from direct care services to Madison County residents.”
Webb concedes, “It’s making us a better health department. We’re held to a timeline for strategic planning and also community health improvement planning. It’s making us more aware of what we’re doing, what each other does.”
While she sees statewide accreditation as making state health better as a whole, she feels her staff was already functioning at a high level.
In other business, when asked about the state’s biggest health issues, Hodges responded with opiate addiction and infant mortality. Opiate addiction is hitting the suburban and rural communities especially hard, he said.
Ohio’s infant mortality rate has been among the worst in the nation. Infant mortality is measured as deaths of live-born babies before their first birthdays. The three leading causes in Ohio are pre-term births, sleep-related deaths and birth defects.
The state’s overall infant mortality rate was 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, according the most recent data from 2014. And the rate for black babies was roughly three times that of whites.
Webb described Hodges, who was appointed to the post by Gov. John Kasich in 2014, as “a breath of fresh air.” Hodges was the executive director of the Ohio Turnpike Commission from 2011 to 2014 and a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, representing Fulton, Williams, and Defiance counties, during the 1990s.
Dean Shipley can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617, on Facebook at Dean Shipley or via Twitter @DeanAShipley.
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU