Changes are still settling in at the Valley County Health Department as back to school immunization and flu season starts. Not only are they sporting a new executive director and a new RN, they also have expanded their office and have gotten a new look.
“We're encompassing the newness,” Health Department Executive Director Connie Boreson said. “We're there where the people are to keep the community healthy.”
The new RN (registered nurse) joining the staff is Leslie Simensen and a new secretary, Tisa Seiler, has also been welcomed to the department. Boreson explained that the two RNs working at the health department are the only two in the county that are working to research and track any communicable diseases that may be spreading. Their job isn't to diagnose, check for minor injuries or help with rashes; they work to communicate with the state on different diseases that may be spreading in the local area or around the state.
“We report to the state daily,” Boreson said. “It can take hours to follow up on any reported diseases.”
Diseases like rabies, whooping cough, mumps and Lyme disease are all reported. The list of reportable diseases exceeds 50, and some of those diseases include STDs, or Sexually Transmitted Diseases. With all the changes going on in the department, Boreson said that educating the community on what they do and about health issues in the county is important.
Public health isn't just about communicable diseases. They also focus on immunizations for prevention and public health emergency preparedness. As an example on emergency preparedness, imagine several students at school come down with whooping cough. The health department would try to investigate which students might have been exposed. If there was exposure to more of the public than just at the schools, they would focus on contaminating the strain. They keep several plans on hand for such instances, in order to be prepared for an epidemic.
Family planning is also a focus and at the county level there have also been some changes in the last few months. The program has now moved to a satellite program under Glendive. The staff has been undergoing training to adjust to the new program, and they'll be continuing to focus on prevention, products and testing.
Boreson also explained that a new community Facebook page has begun and is available for the public. Not only will information on hours and locations for flu clinics and immunizations be posted, but health information will also be provided. She explained that the health department is open to the public and they are still welcoming residents to visit if they have questions or concerns.
Other essential services they provide are community assessments, creating community partnerships to help solve health problems, enforce health laws and regulations, link people to personal health services and develop policies and plans to support community health efforts.
Hours for the Valley County Health Department have settled and will be on Monday from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Boreson explained that the change in hours will allow the staff to be closed on Friday's and give working parents and families to visit before and after work hours.
Students are preparing for school next week, which means the immunization clinic has been busy. They added an extra day for shots in the past week and will continue to catch up on immunizations Mondays from 2 to 6:15 p.m. and Wednesday's from 7:45 a.m. to noon. Kindergarteners will have to tough it out for IPV, DTP and MMR vaccinations are given. Montana state requires these vaccinations in order to keep other kids safe from communicable diseases. Seventh graders will be required for a Tdap and a MMR shot.
A shot in the arm will also be available for some residents in the county as the health department's flu clinic will travel to meet others. Nemont Manor residents can expect a visit from 9-10 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 16. Fort Peck residents can find the flu clinic at the recreation center from 9-10 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17. That same day the Nashua community can visit the senior center from 11 a.m. to noon. Also on Tuesday, the Lustre community can visit the elementary school from 2:30-3:30 p.m. On Wednesday, Sept. 18, Opheim residents can visit NorVal Electric from 10-11 a.m. St. Marie residents can visit the community center on that same day from 12:30-1:30 p.m. The last day for flu clinics is Thursday, Sept. 19. Glasgow residents can visit the senior center from 9-11 a.m. And Hinsdale residents can visit the American Legion Hall from 1-2 p.m.
While appointments aren't necessary for flu shots or immunizations, you can call in and schedule it. The health department also recommends to bring your insurance card and wear a short sleeve shirt on the day of your shots.