The Audrain County Health Department in Mexico, Mo.
From finding a bed for a family in need to helping a high school dropout get back into classes and find a part-time job, the fruits of the Audrain City-County Health Unit’s (ACCHU) 51 years of service have been officially reformed into the Audrain County Health Department (ACHD).
Effective January 1, the new publicly-funded health department assumed all responsibilities of the former ACCHU.
“We’ve been working on the transition all year long,” Kevin Lowrance, ACHD administrator, said. “There is a lot to do when you’re reinventing the organization. We’ll have a lot of the same services and we hope to expand on those services.”
Formerly acting under Revised Missouri Statute (RSMo) 70 — which formed a community compact agreement between the cities of Mexico and Vandalia, the Audrain County Commission, and the Audrain Medical Center — the health department was approved 1,551-1,071 by voters to operate under RSMo205 as a tax-funded entity last April.
“We’re excited,” Lowrance said. “It’s sort of scary. It’s a big change for us.”
The department was approved for a maximum allowance of .25 cents per $100 assessed valuation.
“(RSMo205) has been on the books for a long time,” Lowrance said. “We just have never been able to make it happen. The citizens of Audrain County realized the necessity and value of having a public health organization in the county.”
He said about 85 percent of local public health organizations are funded through RSMo205 arrangements.
“We’re just now getting to where most people have been since the 60s or 70s,” Lowrance said. “We were one of the last to operate under RSMo70. It was time for us to move on.”
He said a solid funding resource will enable the department to rehash ACCHU programs that had been cut via the lack of money.
Those programs included immunization and blood pressure clinics in the Vandalia area.
“Programs like that suffered,” Lowrance said. “Unfortunately, Vandalia and the surrounding area suffered. With more secure funding for us, we hope to get those programs back.”
He said new programs, such as 24-7 breast-feeding peer counseling, will be available among other additions.
“Anything that is in the works now will carry over into the next part, into 2013,” he said. “The gist of it is the same public health service, as well as home and health hospice. The only thing we are looking at is hoping to grow and expand the programs.”
Although the former community compact agreement dissolved, Lowrance said the health department will maintain and strengthen those ties to help form a county-wide presence.
The department will keep the same location as ACCHU on the AMC campus through a lease agreement.
“We have always been our own independent organization,” Lowrance said. “We will be an independent lessee on the AMC campus.”
The department’s board of health members, of which the inaugural members were sworn in on April 18, will be up for vote on the April 2 ballot.
The inaugural members — Chairperson Dr. Patricia Burke, Secretary Jennifer Williams, Treasurer Sterling Oliver, Richard Weber, and Sharon Stowers — were appointed by the Audrain County Commission and serve until the April election determines otherwise.
Board member slots up for vote include two four-year positions and three two-year seats.
Lowrance urged for those interested in guiding public in the county register at the Audrain County Courthouse. The deadline to declare is January 15.
“We want to have representation from across Audrain County,” he said.
The board holds its “Human Services Counsel” meetings at noon on the last Wednesday of the month. The meetings are held in AMC’s Jansen Auditorium.