LINN — Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Deputy Immediate Public Health Division Director Steve Cramer offered his take on Friday about what public health means to …
LINN — Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Deputy Immediate Public Health Division Director Steve Cramer offered his take on Friday about what public health means to community residents and his agency.
“Public health is the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through organized efforts and informed choices,” he said before the ribbon-cutting at the Osage County Health Department’s Grand Opening for its new building at the junction of Hwy. 89/50. “Public health to me, though, is people helping people. We help our neighbors, our friends. When we see a problem, we try to figure out what created the problem and try to fix it. When there’s an emergency, we’re there to help our neighbors. And when something good happens, we’re there for that, too, so we can see why it happened and replicate it.”
Cramer spoke of recent graduations he attended. At Chamois R-1, of which he is the board president, Cramer alluded to graduate Waylon Carter, who thanked his parents, friends, family, teachers, and the community for helping him and his fellow students get to this point in their life. “Public health leaders are helping people get from one point to another,” he said.
At State Tech, keynote speaker Regents VP Steve Sellenriek told graduates that when an old-timer speaks, listen. “They’ve been there; they’ve done that,” Cramer said. “That’s why public health touches every aspect of life, from before birth to death, for expectant mothers who are there to give information about healthy eating, healthy diets, prenatal vitamins — anything to help them have a successful and healthy birth. When birth patterns are present, genetic tests for health anomalies can be conducted, and we can provide services to help. Routine vaccinations, healthy drinking water, blood testing — anything to help that child learn and move forward in a healthy learning environment where they join the workforce. Again, we’re there with healthy living materials on how to progress because we all know a healthy and productive workforce helps our economy, which helps us operate as a society. In the older years, we’re there to help with active living and healthy diets for our seniors, allowing them to live as long and independently as possible. So public health is people helping people. That’s what we do.”
Osage County Health Department Administrator Kim Sallin thanked Presiding Commissioner Darryl Griffin, Western District Commissioner Larry Kliethermes, Eastern District Commissioner John Trenshaw, and the citizens of Osage County for the opportunity to have this beautiful new building. She also expressed gratitude to those from DHSS who took time to celebrate the Grand Opening and to Boone Health, MU Extension, Compass Health, Meramec Regional Planning Commission, Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA), The Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association Missouri River Regional Library, Diaper Bank, and the Osage County Anti-Drug Community Action Team (OC-ADCAT), all of which provided screenings or information on Friday. About 100 visitors stopped by to tour the building.
Griffin said he appreciates the support of residents for this building project. “This wouldn’t have been possible without ARPA money,” he said of the American Rescue Plan Act, which funded a portion of the project. “Kim and her staff were very aggressive in getting grants for furniture and equipment in the building. All our people in the county look for money all the time. We really appreciate that.”
Griffin also thanked Bonnie Prigge and Kelly Sink of Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) for directing the county on how to spend the funds. “When you use government funds, you don’t want to end up in jail,” he quipped.
Porter, Berendzen & Associates, P.C. of Ashland, the architectural firm that managed the project, and general contractor Curtis-Manes-Schulte of Eldon were also praised.
Finally, Griffin noted the efforts of local contractor and business owner Ron Helmig, whose property is adjacent to the new health department building. He partnered with the county on building the back driveway and donated a bench.
Sallin also introduced her staff. “None of this would be possible without them,” she said.
Elisha Rodgers is the go-to person in the office. “I honestly can’t say enough about this woman,” said Sallin. “If you ask her, she’ll tell you, ‘I just answer the phones,’ but that’s not true at all. She’s the glue that keeps us all together. If you asked me who she is, I’d tell you she’s the boss because she’s truly the boss here. Why? Because she is the one that has taught us all about public health. If you don’t know the answer to a question, she probably does or knows somebody who can get you the answer. Her knowledge about this business is kind of what keeps us all together.”
Rodgers’ titles include administrative assistant, WIC Coordinator, childcare health consultant (CCHC) coordinator, CPST, Safe Cribs program coordinator, and the Sneaker Project. “That’s not all, but I’m not going to continue to list things,” said Sallin. “Her responsibilities are endless, and we’re so grateful to have her.”
Kandiss Hoffman joined OCHD two years ago. “It seemed the stars aligned for her to come on with us,” said Sallin. “I think it was meant to be. She also has many job titles. She’s our nurse manager, adult immunizations coordinator, electronic medical records manager, and health insurance guru. If you have a question about health insurance, she probably has an answer. She has other titles. Kandiss keeps the office in good spirits with her constant singing and dancing. She startles more easily than any human I’ve ever met in my life. I can say, ‘Kandiss, I’m coming in; I’m coming in,’ and then when I stop in her office, she’s like, ‘I didn’t know you were coming.’ Yes, but she’s a wonderful and kind human being, and I would be lost without her.”
Abby Baker joined the office in the midst of chaos in 2021. “She has been the calm to our storm,” Sallin said. “She has taken on many duties, some of which are not exactly her favorite and has done them with a smile on her face. Abby is our environmental specialist, one of our WIC nurses, and the breastfeeding peer counselor coordinator, and because of her, we have brought lactation services to Osage County at no cost to the public. When I give Abby a task, I know it will be completed, and it will be great!”
Sallin described Katy Gallagher as one of the most kind and selfless people she’s met. Gallagher started with OCHD in 2020 doing case investigations for COVID. Since then, her job titles have expanded. She is now the CCHC nurse who provides fun, educational classes to childcare facilities in the county. “She does all of our communicable disease investigations and jumps right in for any other task or activity she is assigned,” said Sallin. “She also keeps us laughing with her constant jokes and funny memes.”
Chelsea Smith also conducted case investigations during the pandemic. “I was lucky enough to bring her on in a permanent part-time position a few months ago,” Sallin noted. “She took on our public health emergency preparedness position — which is quite an undertaking — she assists in vaccine clinics, public outreach clinics, clerical work, and any other task we assign. Chelsea is a great addition to our clinic, and I’m so thankful for her.”
Karen Nolting started at the end of last year and agreed to take on the huge task of billing. “God bless her, as this is a very daunting task with all the grants we manage,” said Sallin. “She has done and is doing a fantastic job, and we really enjoy having her on staff.”
Rebecca Seitz is the newest member of the OCHD family. She is a licensed clinical social worker and is bringing low or no-cost mental health services to Osage County. “Her resume is really impressive,” said Sallin. “She has many, many areas of expertise, and she’s going to help move us forward in the effort to normalize mental health.”
Other support staff unable to attend are breastfeeding peer counselor Collette Babor and Denise Coots, a registered dietician who works with WIC participants and is available for private education.
Sallin also thanked her husband, Deputy Ben Sallin. “He is so supportive and drops everything to help me anytime I need something, which is pretty often lately,” she added. “He’s been our trash man, maintenance man, courier, and much more. He’s been great, and I’m thankful to have him with me.”
Sallin noted many services can be obtained using the drive-thru. Drivers can get birth and death certificates, load Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) cards, pick up or drop off water sample test kits, pick up free Narcan, and make arrangements for vaccinations.
For more info, follow the Osage County Health Department on Facebook or visit osagecountyhd.org.
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