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Health Department Wins Model Practice Awards

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Health Department Wins Model Practice Awards

Friday, June 7, 2019

Tompkins County is one of 53 local health departments across the country to be recognized for innovative public health projects in response to critical local public health needs. The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) announced that Tompkins County Health Department is the recipient of two 2019 Model Practice Awards for Ithaca College Public Health Initiatives and the SafeCare Program.

“We are honored to receive NACCHO’s Model Practice Award. The awards are evidence of our commitment to developing responsive and innovative public health programs that improve the health of local residents,” states Frank Kruppa, Public Health Director, Tompkins County Health Department.

The Ithaca College Public Health Initiatives began in 2013, when the college and health department began to collaborate on achieving the goal: Independently respond to a public health emergency to mitigate loss of health and/or life to Ithaca College students, faculty and staff.  Each year select students receive public health responder training, increasing the number of trained public health volunteer responders on campus. To test emergency capacities and volunteer capabilities, the college executes an annual exercise, vaccinating faculty, staff and students against the annual flu. “The initiatives better situate Ithaca College to respond to a public health emergency, guaranteeing a successful outcome in comparison to colleges or universities that have not tested or rehearsed the execution of a mass vaccination plan, have not trained internal public health responders, and have not developed site plans for possible mass vaccination locations on campus,” stated Nina Saeli, Tompkins County Public Health Preparedness Coordinator.

“They [students] see themselves as leaders and as young professionals, who have knowledge and skills that are unique and valuable. As volunteers with the Medical Reserve Corps they learn the importance of training for disasters of all sorts, and specifically how to manage a Point of Dispensing.  As an exercise it’s invaluable both as a flu shot clinic and as a chance for the campus community to train and work together,” stated Mary Bentley, Associate Professor, Ithaca College, Department of Health Promotion and Physical Education.

SafeCare is an evidence-based, behavioral parent-training program for parents of children ages 0-5 years who have been reported for child neglect. Locally, SafeCare was first implemented several years ago by the Department of Social Services (DSS) and Tompkins Family Treatment Court as an intervention specifically targeted to Family Treatment Court cases where parental substance use was a contributing factor to child neglect. DSS and Family Treatment Court partnered with the Health Department to have Community Health Nurses provide SafeCare's in-home instruction on child health, home safety and parent-child interactions. Parents practice and demonstrate skills learned during the home visit.

"SafeCare has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for affected families and for Community Health Nurses providing the instruction," states Karen Bishop, Director of Community Health. "We have realized an 82% family reunification rate and a low recidivism rate of 12.5% over the course of the first three years of the program. The high family reunification rate signifies improved parental engagement and responsiveness to their children's needs and to their home safety. This award-winning program is a great example of community partners working together to strengthen families. An important contributing factor to the success of this model practice is consistent delivery of SafeCare by trained Health Department home visiting nurses," states Bishop. The Health Department has achieved annual SafeCare accreditation from the National SafeCare Training and Research Center, Georgia State University since 2017.

The winning projects were determined through a competitive, peer-reviewed process, will be added to NACCHO’s Model Practice online database, and the Health Department will be honored at NACCHO’s annual meeting in July 2019.

Find the Tompkins County Health Department on Facebook @TompkinsPublicHealth and on Twitter @TompkinsHealth