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JENNIFER HARRIS/The Warren Record

Members of the Warren County Health Department management team receive recognition during the Warren County commissioners’ Dec. 2 meeting on the health department’s recent reaccreditation with honors. Pictured from left to right are: Wenona Mills, nursing supervisor; Sharon Bartholomew, administrative officer; Kaye Hall, nursing director and accreditation coordinator; Commissioner Bertadean Baker and member, Warren County Board of Health; Hilda Baskerville, health education supervisor; health director Dr. Margaret Brake; Commission Chairman Tare “T” Davis; Commissioner Jennifer Pierce; Commission Vice Chairman Victor Hunt; and Commissioner Walter Powell; Not pictured: Elizabeth Tetley, WIC director; Susan Wells, nursing supervisor; and Catherine Mendez, environmental health supervisor.

Members of the Warren County Health Department’s management team were recognized during the county commissioners’ Dec. 2 meeting for the department’s recent reaccreditation with honors designation.

Health director Dr. Margaret Brake thanked the board of health and commissioners for their support and gave her team all the credit when introducing its members.

“I salute them. They’re who did all the work,” she said.

The state requires health departments to be reaccredited every four years based on a three-step process that includes a self-assessment, a site visit and determination of accreditation status.

Brake explained to the newspaper that work on the next reaccreditation self-assessment basically never stops.

“We start on the next one the day after the site team leaves,” she said.

According to the N.C. Local Health Department Accreditation program, the self-assessment includes 41 benchmarks and 147 activities, allowing health departments to assess if they are meeting established standards.

Kaye Hall, the health department’s nursing director and accreditation coordinator, said that Warren County missed only two of the 147 activities, despite being able to provide numerous items of evidence to show the department performed those activities. Still, the local health department received the honors designation because of how well it performed.

The day of the site visit this past fall was the day that Hurricane Dorian hit. Brake said that her management team remained flexible all day, which helped things run smoothly, and put the site team on the road home after just six hours, including two who were from the coast.

“During the exit conference, they commended us on how well we were organized,” she said.

Brake said her team had responded to questions earlier in the reaccreditation process, so there weren’t many on the day of the site visit.

“The leadership team served as the core group that worked on accreditation. They helped to gather evidence,” she said. “All nine of us were hands-on trying to pull evidence the day of the site visit. The team was the one that did the heavy lifting.”

Two other county departments were also important on the day of the site visit, Brake said: buildings and grounds, and information technology, in particular after the health department lost internet, which was required for the site visit.

Being able to upload documents to an online dashboard and answer questions prior to the site visit, as well as provide documentation on flash drives in advance, was helpful, Hall said. After the upload deadline, the health department team was able to answer follow-up questions before the visit. 

“Prior to the visit, we did a lot of meetings bringing the dashboard up, as a team,” Hall said.

Also part of the reaccreditation process were interviews with staff members and community partners, and reviewing the work of the board of health, which was praised.

“They said they didn’t see that a lot, our board’s involvement and engagement,” Brake said.

“The head site visitor was impressed that a small, rural health department with a small staff was able to offer as many services as we do, especially the Exerstyle room,” Hall said. 

The Exerstyle and Exerstyle Plus programs, which offer aerobic exercise activities and fitness equipment in the health department’s Wellness Center, were among best practices that the site team identified during its visit.

“These programs exhibit the health department’s continued dedication to addressing a significant and otherwise unmet community health need,” the Reaccreditation Site Visit Report states.

Also noted as a best practice is the department’s partnership with neighboring counties in obtaining grants to establish programs to enhance services, such as the Stepping Up grant to address mental health issues in jails.

Brake commented on the importance of accreditation and the work of her management team.

“When you reach accreditation, you show you’re doing some significant work in your community that allows you to meet (certain) standards. It’s an assurance of essential services,” she said. “(During the site visit) is when I could visibly see our team in action. It was true collaboration and teamwork throughout.”

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Staff from the Warren County Health Department receive a plaque and blue ribbon while attending the state’s Local Health Department Accreditation Board meeting on Nov. 22 for achieving reaccreditation with honors status. Pictured from left to right are: Christopher C. Dobbins, chairman, N.C. Local Health Department Accreditation Board; Dr. Margaret Brake, Warren County health director; Kaye Hall, accreditation coordinator and director of nursing, WCHD; and Amy Belflower Thomas, accreditation administrator, NCLHDAB.