By Tia Lynn Lecorchick staff writer
The Morgan County Health Department board met on May 12 to vote to approve the proposed budget request for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 for $160,000, which will be submitted to the county commissioners for approval. “I think our requests are very reasonable,” said Dr. Roseann Weaver, chair of the health department board in Morgan County. Claude Burnett, director of the Northeast Health District, reviewed the previous year’s budget and noted the substantial rise of Medicaid revenue to the health department. The amount has more than tripled within the last four years. “The most important revenue source is billable medicaid, that’s up dramatically,” said Burnett. “In four years, it has gone from about $15,000 to $55,000 because we serve so many Medicaid eligible people.” The board also voted to schedule a public hearing on the new Environmental Health Regulations to be held at the health department on August 11 at noon. The state of Georgia recently revised and updated two regulations concerning how inspections are conducted for hotels and motels and for affordable sanitation contractors.
The health department board will vote after the public hearing on adopting the state standards and then present the proposal to the county comissioners, so the new inspection regulations can be enforced locally through the magistrate court instead of having to go through the state courts, said Burnett. “It’s a much longer process to go through state courts,” said Burnett. The board also reelected Roseann Weaver as chairwoman and Ellen Warren as the vice chairwoman. The board swore in a new board member, Angela Daniel at the meeting as well. The board discussed possible strategies to promote health in the community, hoping that if the new budget is approved by the county, that the health department can further expand their health screening program.
“We are trying to reduce our cost of health insurance and improve the health of our employees,” said Burnett. “Part of that strategy is to provide health screenings for county employees through the health department.” “It is much cheaper to do it through the health department than having people go to the doctors,” explained Ellen Warren, member of the health department board. Warren, noted that too many people are unaware of their health needs because of the costs associated with going to the doctors. “So many people have never even been to the doctor. They don’t know their numbers: their blood pressure or cholesterol,” said Warren. The Morgan County health department is already starting the health screening process. “We are going to do the courthouse employees, Roads and Bridges employees, and employees of the Sheriff’s department next,” said Leah Ainslie, the county nurse manager. “Perhaps this will make people more aware and we can have a healthier workforce,” said Warren Burnett strongly recommended educating people about diet and the dangers of tobacco to promote healthy living. “
The government has tobacco listed has one of its top four health priorities. Trying to reduce tobacco use among Georgians is our goal. Tobacco is still the number one killer, with obesity coming up close behind it,” said Burnett. The board reviewed the statewide policy on tobacco-use to see how Morgan County can implement restricted tobacco-use policies. Burnett noted that at one time, 50 percent of Georgians were tobacco users, but now that number is down to 17 percent, one percent lower than the national average. In addition to ridding the community of tobacco use, Burnett wants to see a greater emphasis on healthy eating. “The average American ate 50 pounds of sugar a year in 1950, and today, the average American eats 150 pounds of sugar a year.” said Burnett. He said the increase of sugar intake among Americans is detrimental to health. “People who don’t smoke and eat healthy just live longer,” said Burnett.