HEALTH OFFICER’S CORNER
Dear Health Commissioners/Township/Borough/Village Administrators
I hope you had a healthy and happy Holiday Season. I wanted to give you an update on what your local Health Commission has been working on in December.
The Public Health Accreditation Board has reviewed our documents and provided us with action steps to complete by August 2020.
We received a $95,000 grant to expand our capacity to address communicable disease outbreaks in long term care facilities, schools universities and other locations (Strengthening Local Public Health Capacity Program – Operations). This is part of a $2.5 million completive grant to re-build the public health infrastructure for responding to communicable disease outbreaks. We are developing a communicable disease “Strike Team” that will minimize and contain disease outbreaks as quickly as possible. The communicable disease team was hired on December 18th and is currently receiving on the job training.
This grant will cover our towns, Colts Neck, City of Long Branch and Manalapan Township. The grant will end on June 30, 2020. As part of the sustainability component of this grant I have reached out to a half dozen local health departments to see if they would like to join our shared services consortium of towns. We have also placed a marketing flyer on the NJ Health Officer’s forum to see if there are health departments who want to join our communicable disease service. Adding more towns will add more revenue and stabilize or reduce the cost of our communicable disease services.
Hepatitis cases have increased across NJ in a significant way. There are more than 525 Hepatitis A cases in NJ. Monmouth County is not one of the counties adversely affected by these outbreaks.
Every year we analyze the data from our flu clinics in order to determine how much flu vaccine we order for the next year. We are trending downward in our flu and pneumonia vaccines due to increase competition from supermarkets and pharmacies and to the ever increasing delay of vaccine shipments. As part of our After-Action Report on the Flu Vaccination Clinics for 2019, we have concluded that we will only offer flu vaccine primarily from our in-house clinic with a few exceptions for our larger municipal employee based clinics. We estimate ordering 100 doses or less for 2020. As long as a vast majority of our residents have access to flu and pneumonia vaccines from other sources, we will position ourselves in an assurance role for these vaccines as we foster and encourage everyone to get a flu/pneumonia shot.
The Centers for Disease Control and the NJ Department of Health have notified us that the flu is widespread across NJ and the country. Please take precautions to prevent the flu. It is not too late to receive a flu shot.
Lead-Based Paint/Elevated Childhood Lead Poisonings
After four 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, this program involves our Public Health Nurse Manager, Registered Environmental Health Specialists (REHS inspectors) and Regional Health Educator. The funding for this fiscal year will be approximately $15,232. We are averaging 20 cases of elevated lead poisoning a year. We are preparing to purchase a replacement lead paint analyzer. After 17 years, the current meter is 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 2020 (partially reimbursed with Lead Grant funds). We will also be starting a blood lead screening program shortly. Public Health Nurse Manager Rizvi and Regional Health Educator Polonsky are working with the MCHD and others to put this screening program in place. We receive the testing materials free of charge. This will help to increase the lead screening of children which has only reached 20% statewide.
Based on our success at navigating the SAGE online grant system, we will be applying for the 2020/2021 Lead grant independently from the County. We have been in contact with Colts Neck in order to continue our shared service with them.
After four years of continuous quality improvement and refinement, the collection, storing and delivery of rabies specimens to the NJDOH by State Courier is extremely improved and efficient. The entire staff has worked closely with our public health partners, hospital, Police Departments, Veterinarians, Clinics, our Attorney Bruce Padula, other local health departments and last but most importantly Dr. Colin Campbell of the NJDOH (retiring) to make this a model program. Our Middletown Animal Control has done a fantastic job of protecting the public in all of the towns that they provide services for. Many thanks to Middletown Health Director Richard DeBenedetto and his team for building/refining an excellent animal control operation. The State Courier picks up specimens from our location on Wednesdays but has been very flexible to provide pick up service in more urgent situations on other working days. Rabies is a deadly disease and we have been very conservative and stringent with our policies and State Law to ensure that the specimens get delivered to the lab as soon as possible. Samples are transported to the NJDOH and are then sent out to Kansas to be tested. We take every animal bite to a person or animal very seriously.
We had an incident where the wrong information was sent to the State from another courier pick up site in the County. Since the raccoon exposure to a dog was positive for rabies, Middletown Animal Control, Long Branch Animal and our Department worked together to get the correct information and contact the appropriate people on Christmas Eve. In fact, I was speaking to the owner of the exposed dog from my car on the side of the road on Route 195. We made sure the owner and the State Health Department had the correct updated information. We treat rabies exposures similarly to Ebola exposures. The public’s safety and health are extremely important to us. Please check our Rabies control page on our website. Remember #publichealthmatters.
Vaping (Adverse Effects)/Sale of Vaping Products – NJ Health Department
With 1500+ US Centers for Disease Control documented cases of vaping adverse effects, the NJ Department of Health is now requiring all local health departments to assist in any incident of adverse effects caused by vaping. As per the Commission, I have been looking nation-wide to locate 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. There are a number of vaping related bills that have been introduced by the State Legislature. The bills would provide enforcement power to the local health departments or local Police. I have personally spoken to Senator Vitale and Assemblyman Conaway about our support for these bills that would prohibit flavored vaping products and place greater restrictions on the sale of non-flavored vaping products. I attended a State-wide vaping information conference in Newark on December 6th. Vaping among high schoolers and middle-schoolers has reached epidemic proportions. Steps to reduce this trend will take the combined efforts of our communities and the State. I am reviewing the State Legislature schedule to see when these vaping bills will be discussed and voted on.
Visiting Nursing Services
We continue to discuss the elimination of individual town contracts, opting for 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. In preparation of 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. We are currently reviewing a single contract on behalf of all of our member towns in order to obtain the best overall pricing. There will be no need for towns to have a direct contract with the VNA for 2020.
On December 5th, I attended the NJ Local Boards of Health Association meeting. Vice- President Roman received the Local Board of Health Advocate of the Year award and my Local Senator in Ocean County, Senator Robert Singer, received the Local Board of Health Member of the Year award for his service on the Ocean County Board of Health and State Legislature.
On December 9th, I attended a meeting at the Monmouth County Health Department where we discussed emergency Point of Distribution (POD) immunization planning and services.
We had a meeting of the Audit Committee to discuss the findings of the 2018 Audit on December 16th. Everything went well and there were no recommendations or items that needed to be addressed by the Commission.
We were approached by a town for health officer services or possible membership with the MCRHC. Pricing for services were submitted and we are awaiting a review from the town.
Welcome to the New Year!
Yours in Health,
David A. Henry