Local health department seeking national accreditation

By Lindsay Kriz - [email protected]

POMEROY — The Meigs County Health Department is making efforts to achieve national accreditation via the Public Health Accreditation Board based out of Virginia.

According to Ohio Revised Code Section 3701.13, Ohio Health Departments, in order to retain funding, must apply for accreditation by July 1, 2018 and be accredited by July 1, 2020.

“People may think this is a long span of time, but it’s not when you’ve got this on top of day to day stuff, including a reduced workforce, plus people retire,” Meigs County Health Department Administrator Courtney Midkiff said.

Midkiff, along with her current position at the health department, has also been designated as Meigs County’s accreditation coordinator. Meigs County is part of a 10-county southeast Ohio region currently seeking accreditation, with each county having their own accreditation coordinator. While the 10 counties meet to discuss the accreditation process, each county applies for accreditation individually.

The pre-application assessment phase will include acquiring community health assessment, a community health improvement plan, and a strategic plan. The department is also working on 12 domains and 100 measures documenting the work the department is doing. Once all three pre-requisitions are met the department must pay a fee to apply for accreditation, followed by documentation, selection and submission.

Documents are uploaded to PHAB, who looks over the documentation and makes a three-day site visit probably in late 2019, Midkiff said. Once the site visit is completed a facility will either be labeled as accredited or not. Facilities not up to accreditation standards may be given a year to fix whatever issues were presented and become accredited. Midkiff said PHAB will only announce if a facility is accredited, will not announce any facilities that have failed to become accredited.

Currently, the Meigs County Health Department is using the Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnership (MAPP) steering committee’s national model as a model to use for application for accreditation. The three MAPP assessments that the county has used so far are the Community Themes and Strengths Assessment, the Community Health Status Assessment and the Forces of Change Assessment.

Currently, the health department is working with other county partners to identify data problems and who is going to work on the problems as a community.

“It’s not just about the health department, it’s about working as a community,” Midkiff said.

The health department has also completed focus groups and surveys for data collection — all information that, once collected, will be available to the public and other agencies as well.

“It’s not just going to be done and set on a shelf,” Midkiff said. “It has to be continuous documenting.”

Midkiff added that re-accreditation must happen every five years, calling for continuous documentation and research. The health department also received aid from Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, which helped with four assessments and reports for the community health assessment portion of pre-application.

Along with the accreditation project, Midkiff wanted the public to be made aware of a new health levy that will be on the Meigs County ballot November of this year. The one mill tax levy currently in place will expire Dec. 31, 2016, and if this new one mill levy passes it will be in place alongside the other one mill levy, and will then replace it Jan. 1, 2017. Midkiff said the renewal is necessary because of the lack of funds currently, which the additional levy will help.

The current levy brings in about $240,000 a year, with this new levy bringing in about $350,000 a year — over $100,000 more than the previous levy. Because the Meigs County Health Department serves a county of fewer than 50,000 residents, there is a health department accreditation fee in place. The health department will have to pay $13,000 for the accreditation application process that repeats itself every fifth year. Midkiff said the health department was lucky enough to receive a $10,000 grant from the Ohio Public Health Partnership, which also helped with the pre-application for accreditation process.

The department also currently receives about $385,000 in grant funds from coming from the state, but as of Jan. 1, 2016 the local health departments will have to pay the state the amount up front. In this case, the Meigs County Health Department will need to pay the state $385,000 and will be reimbursed the exact amount.

“We’re supposed to have money to support the grants until we get the money in, so that’s gonna be important for the levy for the grants,” Midkiff said.

She added that while Ohio’s accreditation mandate has been in the works for a while, a mandate went into effect July 2014. In July of next year Rick Hodges, Ohio Department of Health director, will evaluate counties to see how prepared they are for accreditation, and if it seems counties are struggling, Hodges has the power to push the accreditation date back a few years, Midkiff said. However, until then preparations must be made.

“We need the public to basically become aware that we have to do this,” she said. Midkiff added that while preparing accreditation along with the everyday work will be difficult, in the end this accreditation will help the community overall, as it will support conformity to standards and measures.

“We want people in the community to know we’re doing this for the community to better serve the people of Meigs County and to retain our services, which is ultimately going to benefit the public health of all,” Midkiff said.

Reach Lindsay Kriz at 740-992-2155 EXT. 2555

By Lindsay Kriz

[email protected]