Regional Health Department offers new opportunities
By the skins of our chins, the people of Southwest Nebraska qualified to host one of Nebraska's new regional health departments. Now, we must decide how best to use the resources of the office, including funding of up to $370,000.
The health department posed a close call for this area because a minimum population of 35,000 was required, and it was a stretch for the southwest counties to qualify. But, by virtue of eight counties joining together, the minimum was satisfied and the department started earlier this year.
County commissions took the lead role in the regional health department's formation, with one commissioner and an at-large appointee from each of eight counties. "We have a good board," Director Shanan Pollmann said. "The county commissioners are dedicated to the cause, and we receive excellent input from a cross-section of other board members, including a doctor and a dentist."
The area health office swung into action in June following the hiring of Mrs. Pollman as the director. Currently a resident of Wauneta where her husband, Steve, is a veterinarian, Shanan has gained exposure to the health field at Kansas State University, where she assisted with grant writing at K State's Family Center.
Aided by grants from Nebraska's share of the tobacco settlement and bioterrorism funding, the area health department has already taken on some major projects, including arrangements for all the smallpox vaccinations in Southwest Nebraska. In addition, the area health department applied for and secured a radio communications grant. This money allowed the purchase of new radios for each county, plus equipment allowing inter-county communication in mutual aid situations.
But this is just a start. Much more is on the horizon. To determine the best utilization of funding, the area health department has launched a needs survey. The study is being conducted by a health education and evaluation firm from Lincoln known as the Buffalo Beach Company.
As part of the needs analysis, a Ph.D. from Lincoln, Ian M. Newman, met last week with community representatives in Imperial and McCook. This will be called up with telephone visits and consultations with health professionals.
Your ideas are needed, too. You can send them to Dr. Newman at the Buffalo Beach Co., Box 30705, Lincoln, NE 68503-0705, or you may e-mail him at email@example.com.
Numerous attempts at regional health programs have been attempted, but funding has always been a problem. At least for now, the money is there to come up with programs of merit. Let's take advantage of the opportunity. Let's offer our ideas for area-wide programs to improve health services in Southwest Nebraska.