Douglas County Health Department starts environmental health services

The Douglas County Health Department is nearing completion after setting up its environmental health services at the start of the month.

These services include inspections of things like restaurants, septic tanks, tattoo parlors and child care centers.

“Our commitment is to make this a friendly, facilitative relationship where we are helping them, training them, helping them do a good job,” Public Health Director Michael Hill said. “Rather than coming in and smacking them if we think they are doing something wrong.” 

The health department plans to use a softer touch for most minor infractions, Hill said. Major health concerns will still be punished, he said. 

The department hopes to have a tool on its website that allows residents to file complaints and see health reports available soon. 

The department has hired nine inspectors for the county, leased cars for their travel to facilities and purchased iPads to aid in their work.

Between these services and those already set up — vital statistics, disease surveillance and emergency preparedness — the department is about 85% complete. They will still work on setting up services for nutrition, tobacco education, maternal child education and some mental health supports. 

The department is also working to hire a company to conduct clinical services such as vaccines, family planning and sexually trasnmitted disease protection. 

Hill said the taxpayer cost is still set to be about the same as it was when using Tri-County Health Department, at about $2.5 million. The whole operation will cost about $5 million, with the remainder set to be paid for by grants. 

The department is also in the process of hiring its medical officer. The deadline for applications is Sept. 15.  

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