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Health department receives ARPA dollars for records, inspection systems

by DERRICK PERKINS
Editor | November 23, 2021 7:00 AM

County commissioners unanimously approved spending federal relief dollars for the health department’s proposed new records and online inspection systems earlier this month.

Both items were included in the department’s wish list for local American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars. Together, they amount to a roughly $30,000 outlay. Department officials expect the accompanying software for both services will require several hundred dollars in fees each year.

Department Director Kathi Hooper has marketed both systems as potential time and money savers. Currently, department employees use a paper-based system to file health records. It’s inefficient, labor intensive and ends up hurting the bottom line, Hooper told commissioners on Nov. 8.

“It’s $20,000 but we’ve missed that much in revenue in billing just because of the time it takes to bill,” she said. “It would probably save staff time just during flu season to have automated, good records of services provided, and be able to apply that to community health assessments.”

The system will aid department employees in running vaccine programs, nursing services and public health surveillance, according to an outline of the county agency’s ARPA requests. Digitizing records likewise helps with contact tracing, case monitoring and tracking public health programs.

The online inspection system similarly would see a paper-based process go digital. According to the health department’s ARPA funding request, an Internet-based system streamlines the process for residents, businesses and public workers. Eventually, department staff could employ it for septic permits, daycare inspections and congregate living checks.

Hooper told commissioners last week that her employees digitize old records as time allows.

“We have been working on digitizing our old [permits],” she said. “Every time we get a temp worker, we have them hand inputting 1970s septic permits. We have so much paper.”

The online inspection system would run the county roughly $10,000, according to the health department’s proposal.

Hooper had previously brought the department’s ARPA funding requests to county commissioners. Her return before the board last week was to ask about next steps after verifying the proposals were eligible for federal funding trickling down to the local level.

County Commissioner Jerry Bennett (D-2), after securing agreement from his colleagues on the board, opted to go ahead and approve the expenditures. County Commissioner Josh Letcher (D-3) made the motion. County Commissioner Brent Teske (D-1) offered a second.