By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
The Christian County Health Department applied for accreditation on Thursday afternoon — six months ahead of its deadline.
The next step is to get a national inspector here to spend a week conducting interviews and watching procedures. If the health department passes every test, it could get the accreditation before the end of the year.
Department Director Mark Pyle surprised his staff and board members with the news on Thursday. He invited Mike Cayce, director of the county’s board of health, to click the “submit” button on the website of the Public Health Accreditation Board. Watching it on a projector, the staff cheered and clapped.
“It’s real now,” Pyle said. “We’re moving forward now. There’s no turning back.”
Pyle said only five other health departments in Kentucky have applied so far. Every department in the state must gain accreditation by 2020, and so far none have finished the process.
Accreditation will likely open new revenue streams. But in a way, the process matters more than the status designation.
Pyle said it has changed the way his staff members view their jobs. They have to continuously reflect on their methods and brainstorm ways to improve.
“It has become our whole culture,” he said.
The concrete steps included assessing the community’s health and drafting a health improvement plan and a strategic plan. The department is now finishing its self-assessment.
Many of the accreditation standards relate to community engagement: for instance, whether the department is improving public access to health care and whether it’s educating the public. Lately Pyle has talked about creating mobile health units, so nurses would go to the streets and treat people who wouldn’t connect with the health department on their own initiative.
The process also pushes the department away from a “silo” model. It encourages collaboration with Red Cross, the YMCA, Hopkinsville-Christian County Emergency Medical Services, Pennyroyal Mental Health, Jennie Stuart Medical Center and other agencies that deal with health.
“We are very progressive,” Pyle told his staff on Thursday. “We are doing things that other health departments are talking about still.”
If the inspector finds any problems on his visit, the department can still get accredited by showing documented evidence that it fixed the issue.
Pyle’s ultimate goal is to finish the process by the end of 2014.