By Nick Nunn, Staff Writer
During the August meeting of the Morgan County Board of Health (BOH), the board discussed the Morgan County Health Department’s school-based flu program, which will offer free influenza vaccines to all Morgan County students on Oct. 22 and 23.
According to Leah Ainslie, county nurse manager for the Morgan County Health Department, packets will be sent out to parents of Morgan County students soon. Ainslie also stated that receiving the vaccine will be completely voluntary.
On Oct. 22, vaccinations will be administered at the primary school in the morning and the elementary school in the afternoon. The middle school and high school will receive their vaccinations on Oct. 23.
Ainslie stated that the ultimate goal of the program is to keep students healthy so they don’t have to miss school and so their parents won’t have to miss work as well.
The BOH also talked about the Family Life and Sexual Health (FLASH) program, which offers free sexual education lesson programs for schools.
Adriane Strong, who works as the health educator for the Elbert County Health Department but is also under contract with the Morgan County Health Department, described her experience with the program in Elbert County to the BOH.
Strong described the FLASH program as a “gradual process,” which depends on a level of comfort between the students and the health educator. Strong stated that, in other schools, she has set up a booth in cafeterias during lunch, allowing students to come to her for information regarding topics such as sexual health, contraception and even abusive relationships.
Morgan County School Superintendent Dr. Ralph Bennett expressed interest in having such materials available for students.
“If kids ask for it, they are entitled to it,” said Bennett.
Bennett also stated that the school system would not adopt the FLASH program in its entirety. Instead, they would pick and choose the elements of the program that suits the school system and the parents of students.
“We have a great resource here,” said Ainslie about Strong and her willingness to lend herself as a resource to the community.
At the last meeting of the BOH, Board of Commissioner Chair Ellen Warren asked the members of the BOH to consider discontinuing the stipend that they receive in order to cope with the approximate $18,000 decrease in funding that Morgan County won’t be able to give to the Morgan County Health Department this year.
On Monday, the board decided that it would not require board members to discontinue their stipend but noted that any member is free to sign their stipend back over to the health department, should they decide.
The board also saw the patient and visit counts for the Morgan County Health Department during the fiscal year 2013.
During the fiscal year 2013, more than 2,200 patients, or approximately 12 percent of Morgan County, were served by the Morgan County Health Department. The immunization program accounted for 45 percent of those patients and family planning made up another 30 percent.