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Public health agencies receive $50k in incentive payments

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LOWVILLE — The trend has been discussed for a couple of years, but now incentive payments for improved performances are here for local public health agencies.

Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties’ public health agencies were notified Tuesday of their total $50,000 in financial awards, which were attached to results of the state Department of Health’s 2013-14 Local Health Department Performance Incentive Initiative for improvements to communicable disease control reporting measures.

According to each agency’s letter from the state Department of Health, the department “measured the timeliness and completeness of communicable disease reports and investigations over a six month period.”

“Public health reviews communicable disease reports for residents of Lewis County where they’ve been identified or suspected of communicable disease,” said Penny A. Ingham, director of Lewis County Public Health. “We have X amount of time to start investigation. Depending on the severity of the disease and effect on the public, then it determines how much time we have to respond.”

She said Lewis County Public Health’s reporting was not poor or lackluster before, as it had a score of 82.19. The agency, she said, simply made improvements during the six months and subsequently received an improved achievement score of 100.

Lewis County Public Health received a $12,000 incentive payment for its achievement, while Jefferson County Public Health Service received a $19,000 award for their achievement of bringing their score from an 83.62 to a 99.67.

“It increased our awareness of being more timely, instead of maybe waiting for the investigation to be completed,” said Ginger B. Hall, Jefferson County public health director. “We began documenting immediately. It made a big difference. I think anything that improves the quality of care is a great thing.”

Public health representatives in St. Lawrence County took immediate action toward improvement when they first learned of the program, according to Laurie B. Maki, St. Lawrence County Public Health preventive services supervisor. A review of policies and procedures occurred, along with the development of reporting and tracking forms.

“Every health department got their act together,” Ms. Maki said. “I think in most respects it’s a good idea, and really awards health departments that are doing a good job. It seems this is the new way.”

She said the public health agency would welcome other incentive payment programs. St. Lawrence County Public Health received a $19,000 award through this program.

All three local public health agencies must use their incentive payment for items related to communicable disease control, immunizations and family and maternal health.

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