POMEROY — One week from today, the Meigs County Health Department will begin its two-day accreditation site visit.
The accreditation process began nearly five years ago, with the site visit as one of the final steps in the process before the health department’s materials and information are reviewed by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) for a determination on accreditation.
Due to the site visit, which will take place Jan. 22 and 23, the health department will be closed to the public on Wednesday, Jan. 22. Normal business hours will be in place on Jan. 23.
During the visit, four site team members — who are from New York, Connecticut, Alabama and Virginia — will be on hand to meet with health department staff, board of health members, community partners and others regarding the programs of the health department, the community health assessment and community health improvement plan completed as part of the accreditation process, and how the health department meets the needs of the community.
In 2019, the health department submitted hundreds of documents to PHAB as part of the accreditation process. Those documents have been under review and needed adjustments have been submitted as requested, explained Health Department Administrator Courtney Midkiff and Accreditation Coordinator Michelle Willard.
More than 20 policies and plans had to be created and put in place as part of the accreditation process, including the Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan.
Willard and Midkiff thanked all of those who have helped along the way during the accreditation process, including the stakeholders, the board of health, University of Rio Grande, Ohio University, Ohio State University, the Meigs County Commissioners, the Ohio Department of Health, the county and its taxpayers and many others.
It is likely that the health department will not know PHAB’s decision on accreditation until at least May as the board meets quarterly with the next meeting currently set for April.
There are three options as to the decision that can be made by PHAB — accredited, not accredited or an action plan.
Currently, 38 local health departments in the state of Ohio have been accredited. The only on in the southeastern region to be accredited to date is Portsmouth City, which was given an action plan before final accreditation.
“Public Health Accreditation is a voluntary national program developed by PHAB to measure health department performance against a set of nationally recognized, practice-focused, and evidence-based standards. Accreditation ensures applicants meet or exceed an established baseline of service to advance the quality, performance, and accountability of public health departments. Accreditation requires the close inspection of our core programs, policies, and processes to ensure that they not only meet the standards set by PHAB, but that we continuously work to improve how we deliver Public Health to everyone who lives, works, or plays in Meigs County,” explained the health department.
The 130th Ohio General Assembly, in 2013, codified the authority for the Director of Health to require all local health districts to apply for accreditation by 2018 and to become accredited by 2020.
“While the process was required and time sensitive, it is still a process we are glad we went through,” said Midkiff.
“We thank the tax payers. This was not a cheap process to go through and we want to show a good return on investment by providing a health department that is accessible to all of Meigs County,” said Midkiff. “It is about quality and accountability.”
The accreditation standards address the array of public health functions set forth in the ten Essential Public Health Services. The standards address a range of core public health programs and activities including, for example, environmental public health, health education, health promotion, community health, chronic disease prevention and control, communicable disease, injury prevention, maternal and child health, public health emergency preparedness, access to clinical services, public health laboratory services, management/administration, and governance.
Going through the process has made the health department more aware of the documents, processes and community engagement of the health department, explained Willard.
The accreditation process has been led by Willard as the accreditation coordinator with all staff members taking part in the process in some way. Many of the staff will be involved in the meetings with the site visitors, while those not directly involved will work as runners, scribes or in other roles as needed during the visit.
“Without a dedicated staff person with attention to detail, research and time put toward accreditation we would not have done as well,” said Midkiff of Willard’s work in submitting for accreditation ahead of the July 2020 deadline for accreditation.
Once the accreditation process is completed, the Meigs County Health Department must submit for reaccreditation every five years.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.