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Cities may lose health offices

LISBON — As the state is looking at its upcoming budget, something proposed in Ohio House Bill 110 could change the way health departments operate in our local area.

There are currently 113 health departments in Ohio’s 88 counties. In Columbiana County there are three — the General County Health District plus the East Liverpool and Salem city health departments.

County Health Commissioner Wes Vins said originally, the proposal had been made to close those health departments serving a population of less than 50,000 people. A modification to the House bill now would call for a review of those department. Vins said it would include evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of merging the smaller city health departments with the county general health district.

As currently written, the bill would require that if the study indicates a merger advisable, then the city’s chief executive would be required to enter into a contract with the general health district’s advisory council for the inclusion of the city. The exception would be if the advisory council delayed the merger for a good reason.

The 2020 population of Salem is listed at 11,452, while the East Liverpool has about 1,000 fewer residents at 10,435. The Columbiana County General Health District serves those in the rest of the county.

Vins said the bill is currently in the House, where it was presented and passed Wednesday. While the Senate has begun meetings, Vins said it is too early to tell if it will pass or be changed by the state Senate or signed by Gov. Mike DeWine.

In another matter before the board, medical administrator Jamie Elenz reported the county health department has now given more than 10,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines at their clinics, 10,258 to be exact. Another large second dose clinic is planned at the county fairgrounds on Friday, although anyone who is still seeking a first dose and calls 330-429-5197, that person could also be added to Friday’s clinic.

The last second dose clinic at the fairgrounds will be April 30. After that, people can call the office at 330-424-0272.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the board approved an arrangement with the county fair board for the health department to pay $750 per clinic held at the fairgrounds, not to exceed $15,000. Vins said he would first make certain that Covid funding can be used to cover this expense. The money is not for the rent of the vaccination complex building, but for the fairgrounds personnel and damage to the fairgrounds due to the high volume of traffic created by the clinics.

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