PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth City Board of Health announced several new changes and updates during its monthly meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 23.
PCHD’s syringe exchange program will be transferred to a new location and conducted by staff from the River Valley Organizing Project, altered already from its original weekly syringe exchange moved to every two weeks over three days and on modified hours due to the cor0navirus.
Scheduling restraints and required social distancing measures have challenged the department, placing other programs such as HIV testing and health workgroups on the backburner.
“Now we will be able to actually schedule HIV testing,” said PCHD Interim Director Belinda Leslie. “All of the services we provide, instead of our staff just doing the exchange, they will now be able to go back to.”
Changes will also be coming to Prevention and Promotion Division of PCHD, which will now more closely reflect the results of the Community Health Needs Assessment. Leslie said addiction, although a present issue in Portsmouth, will no longer be the sole focus of the division.
“We definitely have an issue with that and want to continue to address it,” said Leslie, regarding addiction which has been particularly lethal relating to opioids. “We want to lead other public health issues into that division.”
Leslie said the change is needed especially after the release of the 2o2o County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program, a study conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, which found Scioto County to be the worst county in Ohio in terms of overall health.
“We’ve got to do more with our community partners to get the needle moved a little bit,” said Leslie. “For the next couple of years that will be our focus, trying to get plans and initiatives in-place to help us improve our health rankings.”
Board member and Southern Ohio Medical Center Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. David Byers said the rankings, where Scioto County lost 13,100 years of potential life before the age of 75 between 2016 and 2018, were due to a combination of increased opioid overdoses and poor health behaviors.
The coronavirus has been relatively controlled following the reopening of schools until recently, Leslie said, where one football player developed symptoms after practice and later tested positive. At another school, a volleyball coach attended a wedding with members of the school’s food staff, where one unassociated individual later tested positive.
“We are working very well with the schools,” said Leslie, who plans on doing contact tracing following these instances. “They have consulted us, we have not had any issues with anyone.”
Leslie added that the wedding attendees from the school did have direct contact with the positive case, but none have tested positive or shown symptoms. Deemed as essential workers by CDC guidlines, they have reported to school since they are asymptomatic.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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