Director hopes for monthly RV visits in 4 county towns

The Wayne County Health Department is a half-hour or longer drive away for some county residents, creating challenges for those wanting to use services the department provides.

Christine Stinson, the department’s executive director, would like to take services to those residents.

Stinson outlined five departmental goals for 2023 during the year’s first Board of Health meeting Jan. 19.

One is to use the department’s mobile unit for monthly visits to Fountain City, Cambridge City, Centerville and Hagerstown. Stinson said the concept is to visit each town the same Wednesday each month to provide services such as immunizations, harm reduction measures, and blood pressure and cholesterol testing.

The department purchased the RV with funds provided to combat COVID-19. The purchase was made anticipating it could provide additional value besides COVID-19 uses.

Stinson also wants to expand the department’s distribution of naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote in Narcan devices, into county areas outside Richmond. She’s looking for partners in the county to hang Narcan boxes on their buildings. The health department receives free Narcan kits to replenish boxes.

Narcan boxes have been hung on four Richmond fire stations, the health department building and the Neighborhood Health Center building. Narcan is also available from a free vending-style machine in the sheriff’s department and jail lobby.

The health department hopes to have Narcan available in areas where overdoses frequently occur.

Stinson also plans to have back-to-school health fairs to provide services necessary for students. Those could include immunizations and required sports physicals.

Other goals for 2023 include regional sewage training for septic installers and putting the department’s food service permitting process online.

School food permit

The board spent time discussing the department’s food permitting policy.

Stinson said that when she arrived in 2020, she was told the department does not charge nonprofits for food-service permits. That has continued, although it’s not specifically included in the written policy.

The practice surfaced when the department learned that Richmond Community and Nettle Creek schools outsource their food service to a third party, Chartwells.

Stinson said that Chartwells is not a nonprofit, so it should pay the $250 permitting fee for each location. With 11 RCS locations and two Nettle Creek locations, that’s $3,250 the department has not been collecting each year.

Charging Chartwells follows the departmental policy of charging for-profit entities.

The board asked Stinson to update the written policy to specify who should be charged and to include a fee schedule for its consideration. The board would then render decisions about the policy and, if it decides to charge Chartwells, the timeline to begin requiring that charge.

Ron Cross, the health department and county attorney, has reached out to Chartwells about paying the permitting fee. The board included a provision in its motion last week that it would accept payment if Chartwells decides to pay now.

COVID-19 update

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to rank Wayne County as high for COVID-19 impact.

Stinson said there has been a downward trend across Indiana in case numbers; however, a new strain is becoming more prevalent. That strain is said to be more contagious but not more severe.

Stinson continued to stress that residents should remain up to date on vaccinations by receiving the bivalent booster. Only 7,002 county residents are up to date although 32,846 have received the primary vaccination series, according to Indiana State Department of Health statistics updated Jan. 18.

“If you’re over age 50, it’s just really important to stay up on your boosters,” Stinson said.

The state reports there have been 23,086 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among Wayne County residents, although that number is low because of the prevalence of home testing. There have been 352 county residents to die from COVID complications. That includes two January deaths after there were two December deaths.

Stinson said most hospitalizations and deaths are residents who are not up to date on vaccinations. She said it’s tempting for residents to want to forget about COVID, but COVID’s impact remains.

“I’m really tired of COVID,” she said, “but it’s not tired of us.”

Stinson said flu cases have decreased after reaching an unusually early and unusually high peak. She warned that a second peak is now expected during late February or March, so it’s not too late to receive a flu shot.

The health department continues to offer flu shots and COVID vaccinations Monday through Friday and on the first Saturday of each month.

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Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.