Mandated accreditation hits health department in the purse

The Scioto County Health Department intends to seek accreditation, but at what cost? The National Accreditation Association for Public Health, out of Lynchburg, Virginia, is mandating accreditation.

“It’s going to cost us about $14,000-$15,000 to apply and about $5,600 a year to stay accredited after we do that,” Scioto County Health Commissioner Dr. Aaron Adams said. “That doesn’t should like a lot of money to a lot of people, but to a health department it’s a lot of money.”

Adams said the Scioto County Health Department operates on a small budget and a lean work force.

“I have gone to the (Scioto County) commissioners and they have agreed to give us some support to help us do this and I feel very fortunate in that capacity,” Adams said. “As far as I know, the only other health department in the state of Ohio that is getting that kind of help is Holmes County. Many of these little rural health departments that lack services like hospitals – Community Action support, support from Compass Community health, Shawnee Mental health – are on their own. They’re going to have a small budget and they’re going to have a hard time becoming accredited.”

Adams said, if a health department can’t afford to become accredited, the work will have to be done by other communities.

“Ohio is the first and only state to mandate accreditation,” Adams said. “And here’s the big deal with it – it costs a lot of money for health departments to do it.”

In 2013, the health departments throughout the state of Ohio were mandated to become accredited and health departments in Ohio must become accredited by 2020 or they will be automatically merged into another health department that is accredited. While accreditation is mandated, there is no funding provided for the process.

“Once you are accredited you can receive some funding,” Adams said.

Adams said he heard one of the members of the Accreditation Board speak last fall at the Health Commissioners meeting in Columbus.

“He stated really it was not the intention of this group called PHAB (Public Health Accreditation Board) to require small health departments to become accredited because they don’t have the finances to do it,” Adams said. “And it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Large ones can do it. They’re in large metropolitan ares and have a super budget and have more service they can offer. But rural health departments, particularly in southeastern Ohio, they do the mandated thing like nursing and environmental, like going out to make sure a septic system is installed properly according to the Ohio Revised Code; evaluate nuisance complaints, do surveillance on food-borne illnesses.”

All reports are filed with the state and all vital statistics are reported to the state as well. Nursing does immunizations and other services, but Adams said reimbursement is poor. The Scioto County Health Department gets its funding from millage from the townships and villages.

What income is generated comes from adult immunizations.

“We’re all going to do this, at least most of us are, and we are in the process of doing it now,” Adams said. “It takes a lot of time. You have to hire more people. You need an accreditation coordinator. You have to bring someone in to fill the gap, particularly in an area like ours because we lack the number of people to do the things we do anyway.”

The Portsmouth City Health Department has already taken steps to begin the process as well.

“We hired a full time accreditation coordinator and she has been in place for a year,” Portsmouth City Health Commissioner Chris Smith said. “We’ll be applying in August. We have every intention of getting accredited mostly to provide better services to the community.”

County health department to receive financial help from commissioners

By Frank Lewis

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Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

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