Delaware County Health Department to receive almost $600,000 in state funds
MEDIA – Delaware County Council approved almost $600,000 in state funding for the five-month-old county health department.
“We said we thought that this department was going to improve health and bring in funding and this is proof of this concept,” County Councilwoman Christine Reuther said.
Although the process to establish the health department began in January 2020 after a Democratic majority was seated at county council, the department became fully licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health in April.
Council unanimously approved three separate actions that bring $583,869 to the department this year with the potential to bring $1.8 million over the next five years.
County Chair Dr. Monica Taylor, who was instrumental in the founding of the county health department, noted, “We have over $800,000 in grants that are being awarded to us to support our health department, which we would not have been eligible for without a health department so they can go out and support our community whether its maternal-child health or immunizations.”
County Health Department Director Melissa Lyon said these services that are receiving state funding are required for newly established health departments to administer to the community.
“They will ultimately be evergreen grants so they will come year after year,” she said.
• $140,000 for maternal-child health services this year.
That funding from the state health department will be spent for the Healthy Families, Healthy Babies Program and it includes assessing the need for doula services and educating residents about these services. It is eligible for two one-year renewals for a total of $420,000.
• $55,240 Tuberculosis Treatment and Prevention Grant Award also from the state. Lyon explained that this funding covers the cost for one individual to do case management of tuberculosis cases.
Although this funding covers this fiscal year, it is also eligible for four one-year renewals at a total of $276,200.
• $388,629 from the state for the Vaccines for Children Program. It does not include any of the COVID vaccines.
“This is one of the fundamental programs that the DCHD is expected to be providing for the community: free vaccines for children based upon their eligibility,” Lyon said, adding that the grant covers the majority of the cost of the childhood vaccine program.
Reuther noted that during the pandemic, the county experienced a drop in childhood immunizations due, in part, to pediatrician offices not seeing patients and to the difficulty in getting appointments.
“This is critical,” the councilwoman said. “This is really really important to keep our kids healthy, to keep our schools healthy, to keep the herd healthy.”
Lyon acknowledged there had been a drop, and nurses are working with parents and guardians in providing catch-ups so children will be able to attend school.
COVID and flu
County officials noted this program does not include the COVID vaccine.
However, on Friday, county officials announced that the county health department will soon be offering the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster as approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Aug. 31.
The bivalent booster contains half of the original COVID vaccine formulation to protect against the original strain and half of a new formulation to combat the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.
These booster shots will be available through both Pfizer and Moderna and the public is recommended to continue with the type they started. Those who started with the Johnson & Johnson can pick either.
Currently, the bivalent booster is only available through local pharmacies. However, county officials intend for the health department to be available at vaccination clinics soon.
The department is also constructing a plan to administer flu vaccines.
Aware that the county has provided drive-through flu vaccines in the past, Lyon explained that funding for these are through channels associated with public health emergency preparedness, not immunizations for childhood diseases.
“We are internally strategizing on having influenza options for community members,” she said.