I hope you are continuing to enjoy the Fall weather. I wanted to give you an update on what your local Health Commission has been working on in September.
The Public Health Accreditation Board has reviewed our documents and provided us with action steps to complete by August 2020.
We have submitted a grant application for a $95,000 grant to expand our capacity to address communicable disease outbreaks in long term care facilities and other locations (Strengthening Local Public Health Capacity Program – Operations). This is part of a $2.5 million competitive grant to re-build the public health infrastructure for responding to communicable disease outbreaks. We have just received notification that we are one of the 21 local health departments out of 94 that were awarded this grant. We will be developing a communicable disease “Strike Team” that will minimize and contain disease outbreaks as quickly as possible. This grant will cover our towns, Colts Neck, City of Long Branch and Manalapan Township.
Hepatitis A cases have increased across NJ to the point where the NJDOH has grant money available to help in Hepatitis A education. There are currently 514 Hepatitis A cases in NJ with the latest case in Somerset County that involved a Shop Rite. Monmouth County is not one of the counties that have been adversely affected by these outbreaks.
Lead-Based Paint/Elevated Childhood Lead Poisonings
After three years of extensive work/advocacy/collaborations with the State Legislature and public health partners, we laid the groundwork to obtain $10 million, state-wide for use in reducing the cost of municipal lead prevention in NJ. With the new State budget in place, we are beginning the next phase of State Grant funding for this program that involves our Public Health Nurse and Registered Environmental Health Specialists (REHS inspectors). The funding for this fiscal year will be approximately $15,232. We have been averaging 19 cases of elevated lead poisoning a year. We are preparing to purchase a replacement lead paint analyzer due to the current 17 year old meter starting to become unusable. The company that manufactured and serviced the meter has gone bankrupt. We will be including the purchase of a new lead meter in the 2020 budget. We will also be starting a blood lead screening program shortly. Public Health Nurse Rizvi and Regional Health Educator Polonsky are working with the MCHD and others to put this screening program in place before 2020. We receive the testing materials free of charge from the State. This increased screening will help to find/diagnose hidden lead poisoning in children 6 and under. Current screening efforts of this age group has only reached 20% statewide.
Vaping (Adverse Effects) – NJ Health Department
With 1500+ US Centers for Disease Control documented cases of vaping adverse effects (including 33 apparent deaths); the NJ Department of Health is now requiring all local health departments to investigate any incident of adverse effects caused by vaping. As per the Commission, I have been looking nation-wide for e-cigarette prohibition/flavoring templates or ordinances. So far, I have not found anything that our towns can use as a template. I continue to check with our Attorney for anything in New Jersey. We will be watching the State Legislature to see if there are any Bills involving vaping restrictions. In 2015 and 2016, we had proposed licensing vaping retailers. It may be time to revisit that proposed ordinance to help protect teens.
Visiting Nursing Services
We continue to discuss the elimination and incorporation of the town’s direct contracts (in most cases) with one agreement between the MCRHC and Visiting Nurses Association. We have been reviewing nursing health statistics for each town. In a hybrid fashion, we utilize both the services of VNA and our in-house nurse to provide municipal nursing services as required by the State Health Department performance standards. As we prepare the 2020 Budget, the Commission has recommended to our CFO that a $500 minimum be assessed to our towns, which is the same minimum as last year.
On October 4th, I attended the NJ Public Health Association annual meeting in Somerset.
On October 7th, I attended a meeting between NJDOH and one of our towns to discuss a State investigation. The town’s documentation for the investigation was extensive and detailed.
MCHD Health Officer Chris Merkel and I were the panel speakers for a state-wide webinar on the “Hotshots for Tots” vaccination program on October 10th. We discussed the benefits of having school children appropriately vaccinated against childhood diseases.
I attended the Monmouth County Governmental Public Health Partnership on October 15th. We discussed a variety of public health topics such as the increase in Hepatitis A cases in NJ, increase in TB cases, and we received formal GPHP approval of our grant for communicable disease services to the NJDOH.
On October 17th, Regional Health Educator Polonsky and I met with a representative from the Isles Group to discuss possible collaborations on childhood lead screenings and lead paint abatements. Isles has been a leader (non-profit agency) in the re-habitation of lead paint contaminated homes. They have also been our long term partners advocating for adequate lead abatement funding. I have been working with Isles since 2010. Our collaboration would be beneficial as the State Department of Community Affairs is looking to allocate money to local health departments for lead abatements and relocations.
Yours in Health
David A. Henry
David A. Henry, MPH, HO