The Bay County Health Department was recognized on Wednesday, Oct. 10, at the Michigan Premier Public Health Conference, which was organized by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
The department received the Director’s Award to Local Public Health for its involvement in the Bay Community Health Clinic that is jointly run by SVSU and the Bay County Health Department. This is the third time that the health department has received the award.
“The Bay Community Health Clinic has made an impact on the community, and I think that the nomination team saw how it has enhanced the health department as well,” said nursing professor Kathleen Schachman. “We are better able to take care of a vulnerable population and help them to manage a wide variety of health issues that otherwise may not be addressed.”
The award has been given annually since 1983 to Michigan health departments that show exemplary leadership in an innovative area. The departments have to meet certain acriteria in order to be eligible for the award, such as distributing data to build a more integrated health system, promoting health and wellbeing in the community, preventing leading causes of illness, injury and premature death and building partnerships at the neighborhood level and across the health community.
“It has taken a while to get the clinic to where it needs to be, but we have had great success from the work that we have done,” said Joel Strasz, health officer at the Bay County Health Department. “We have demonstrated that we can show improvements in the population that we are working with, and I think that this award recognizes the truly innovative work we are doing.”
As a result of winning the award, the clinic received $1,000 and a trophy. The monetary award will be used to purchase equipment to improve the facility.
“This award speaks highly of the Bay County Health Department and SVSU’s partnership with the Bay County Health Department,” Schachman said. “The clinic is beneficial to the community and to our students as well because they are able to have experience working with an interprofessional team.”
The Bay Community Health Clinic was developed by SVSU and has been located within the Bay County Health Department since 2015. The clinic is made up of nursing, social work, health science and occupational therapy students from SVSU, as well as pharmacy students from Ferris State and social work students from MSU and Wayne State. The interprofessional team approach used by the clinic contributes to quality patient care and ultimately helped the clinic to stand out from their peers, Schachman said.
“Most people think of local health departments as health cops patrolling restaurants or quick clinics,” Strasz said. “This is cutting edge because we are going above and beyond in order to implement a true primary care component that also integrates mental health.”
Strasz submitted an application nominating the Bay County Health Department, specifically for bringing a primary care behavioral health clinic into a health department, which is unique. There is no other health department in the state that has a primary care health clinic embedded within it. Areas that a health department will typically attempt to address can be solved directly from their own health clinic, further benefiting the community, especially the underserved population, Strasz said.
“The relationship between the Bay County Health Department and the Bay Community Health clinic is unique,” Schachman said. “In this relationship, they send patients to us, and we send patients to them, which ultimately benefits the entire community through better addressing the needs of patients that typically get kicked out of other health offices.”