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Jasper County Health Department looking to expand in second year

Published: Thursday, April 13, 2017 9:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, April 13, 2017 1:41 p.m. CST

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It has been a busy first year for the Jasper County Health Department. From forming in February 2016, hiring an administrator, beginning programing and filling out the employee roster, the department is moving full steam ahead to help citizens in Jasper County.

The department was created following Skiff Medical Center’s decision to no longer provide public health services after its integration with Mercy Health Network. At that time, the Board of Health with the approval of the Jasper County Board of Supervisors made the decision to bring the services back under county control.

“During the past year, public health has expanded their reach and impacted every income level, changing the perception of public health,” Board of Health Chair Margot Voshell said. “I couldn’t be prouder of what has been accomplished. In Jasper County, we are creating health equity, meaning everyone has the opportunity to attain their highest level of health. Health equity positively impacts employment, housing, education, food choices and the safety of counties. When public health prospers, everyone benefits.” 

To lead the organization, the board hired administrator Becky Pryor, who previously worked at Grinnell Regional Medical Center and Fayette County Health Department in Illinois. Pryor hit the ground running, working to build the foundations of the department and assess the needs of the county to provide appropriate services.

“We focus on the core services of public health and continuing to build and raise awareness of the health department services in Jasper County,” Pryor said. “Every day, the health department has a role in promoting and protecting your health. Public health improves the quality of life by promoting disease prevention, safety, and educating the public.”

Services the department has implemented include immunizations, health screenings and health education along with Home Care Aide services which focus on the elderly and disabled to help them remain in their own home.

“We serve as the hub for Jasper County on the prevention of disease and injury by promoting healthy lifestyles,” Pryor said. “We implement educational programs, develop policies, administer services, conduct research and regulate health systems to achieve these goals in Jasper County.”

Notable additions to the department include Dr. Stephanie Bantel as a new member of the board of health, Kristina Winfield was hired as the Jasper County Public Health Coordinator and Home Care Manager Brenda Steenhoek was hired to oversee the division. A concentrated effort has been made to reach out to the public to inform them of services available through an updated website, brochure, through social media, press releases and numerous speaking events.

Entering into its second year, the department has many goals, ranging from continued public interaction to a new physical location to provide services.

“The Jasper County Board of Health would love to have a new and improved location to better serve the residents of Jasper County,” Pryor said. “We are currently located in the basement of the Annex which is limited on space and accessibility. Finding space for the Jasper County Health Department is ultimately up to the board of supervisors and they are exploring options.”

Pryor also plans to continue working with GIS mapping to provide public access to environmental records electronically for wells and septics, hire an assistant for environmental health, explore new grant opportunities, begin work with emergency preparedness with the new six county coalition in July and participate in events with county partners along many other objectives and goals.

“We continue to strive toward our mission to protect and improve the health of Jasper County. We have an experienced team that is visionary and accepts the challenges that we are faced with in our community,” Pryor said.

The community partners, board of health, board of supervisors and communities have been supportive and understand our need for health department services, she said.

“We continue to have a vision to provide the best possible health department services and care to Jasper County,” Pryor said. “I want to personally thank my staff for their commitment to serving Jasper County and the numerous accomplishments over the past year.”

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or jpierson@newtondailynews.com

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