Immunization rate rises at the Belmont County Health Department

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — More Belmont County families are using the immunization services offered through the county’s health department.

Linda Mehl, director of nursing, said the number of childhood immunizations increased this summer in preparation for the new school year. Speaking at the Belmont County Board of Health meeting earlier this week, she said 187 clients were served in August, compared to 123 clients for the same month last year.

Several months ago, Mehl said the department had begun to ask people who qualify for free vaccinations to pay a $15 administrative fee, but clients won’t be denied a vaccine if they can’t afford the fee. She said the department bills insurance companies for the administrative fee when a patient has coverage.

In unrelated issues, Mehl told the board that she is waiting to hear whether requests for a maternal-child health grant and a crib grant will be approved. She said the proposal to purchase cribs for families in need is a collaborative effort with the Jefferson County health department.

In other matters, Tiffany Vcelka was introduced as the health department’s new administrative assistant. She replaces Patricia Van Fossen who resigned.

Rich Lucas, director of environmental health, said August was a busy month for the environmental health staff. He said they investigated 12 nuisance complaints and received 18 reports of animal bites or exposure to animals.

Lucas said a proposal for 2019 environmental fees will be ready for first reading at the Board of Health’s next meeting.

Dr. George L. Cholak, county health commissioner, said one birth and 55 deaths occurred in Belmont County in August. To date, he said there have been five births and 494 deaths in the county this year.

The low birth rate can be attributed to the absence of birthing facilities in Belmont County. Barnesville, Belmont Community and East Ohio Regional hospitals do not have obstetrics departments, although EORH officials are trying to recruit an obstetrician to reopen its birth center.

All members of the Board of Health attended the meeting this week. Present were board president Dwight Jenewein and members James King, Joel Braido, Irene Louda, Elizabeth Glick and Dr. Renato DelaCruz.

The Board of Health’s next meeting is scheduled for noon Oct. 9 at the health department, 68501 Bannock Road, St. Clairsville. The session is delayed for a day because of the Columbus Day holiday Oct. 8.