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Health department makes changes

The Lafayette County Health Department will cut its hours of service starting Monday due to a decrease in demand.

While other heath departments across the region and state are closing, the impact locally on Veterans Drive will be a reduction in hours and staffing, but not any loss of services.

The health department will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday starting next week, a reduction from being open during those hours Monday through Friday. Most services can be offered by appointment, and walk-ins will be taken on a limited basis. New maternity patients will not be taken.

“Over the past few years patient flow has seriously declined throughout the state, and with that, so has our incoming revenue,” said State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier. “For many months now we have been reviewing clinic hours, patient flow and current services.”

Statewide, 35 full-time employees and 29 contract workers were terminated, and nine county health departments were closed.

“We are continuing to evaluate our programs and clinics to ensure the most effective and efficient use of our funds,” Currier said. “While still providing standard services such as immunizations, disease investigation and inspections of restaurants, child care facilities, hospitals, on-site wastewater and others on a daily basis, we will move toward prevention-oriented activities such as diabetes self-management, tobacco and chronic diseases prevention.

Liz Sharlot, director of communications for the Mississippi Department of Public Health, said specific num- bers for the Lafayette County facility were unavailable, but there was a 44 percent reduction in patient rate usage the past year statewide.

“For a couple years now, due to Obamacare and Medicaid managed care, clients are being offered other options, and that’s a good thing,” she said. “Demand is much lower and people are not coming to our county health departments as much. That’s a good thing because we want Mississippians to have a medical home. We have to adjust our staff and our hours and our county health departments accordingly.”

Sharlot said the state department is facing a significant decline in revenue from the state, so officials will have to look at doing more with less and finding ways to prevent health woes.

“We’re going to move into a more preventative role,” Sharlot said. “We will be working to prevent chronic diseases. More people die from chronic disease implications than they do from cancer or communicable diseases so we have to get out in the communities and work to help them from starting or manage them to help them have a better quality of life.”

The same services will be offered alongside preventative care, but residents will need to call ahead for appointments.

“For things like immunizations, family planning, Women, Infants and Children … you may have to call in for what day those services will be offered,” Sharlot said. “We’ll do walk-ins on a limited basis as needed. When someone walks in and presents with symptoms of a communicable disease, we would see them right away. We will always be doing disease investigation and surveillance, and communicable disease prevention and restaurant and day care inspections will continue as normal.”

“There is not one Mississippian that will be without county health services.”