Last November, the department received accreditation by the MICH. It is the first health department in the state to receive this title.
"It was awarded for a three-year period, and then we have to apply again," said Melanie Glaus, director of the Mississippi County Health Department. She added that with all the trainings and other requirements that must be met, this process takes close to a year to complete.
In September 2003, Glaus attended a meeting of Missouri local health departments. This meeting, devoted entirely to reviewing the accreditation manual and answering questions about the process of applying for accreditation, gave her the motivation to work for accreditation.
Although it is voluntary, Glaus, who has been director for 13 years, realized the importance of accreditation for the Mississippi County Health Department. "It sets us apart from other health departments in the state," she said. "Now, we're in a category with other health care agencies, such as hospitals and clinics that go by stricter guidelines as far as providing care."
Accreditation is a fairly new process, according to Glaus. "It's been in existence for about two years," she remarked.
The review consisted of three parts: staff, facility and performance expectations. "They review our facility, all of the staff and their credentials," Glaus noted.
MICH reviews the health department on 23 standards derived from the three main components. An example performance standard is: identify need for change in policies and/or programs, evaluate them on a regular basis and communicate the findings.
"Each performance standard has four to five additional measures," Glaus added.
According to Glaus, these review measures "look at everything." Different components overviewed included what programs were provided, who they were provided to, as well as degrees, classes and continuing education of the staff.
Health departments must also fulfill 10 essential services in the areas of assessment, evaluation and assurance. These essential services include developing policies, enforcing laws and monitoring health, among others.
In order to be awarded with accreditation, health departments have to score rather high on the review. "You must get at least 207 out of 230 possible points," Glaus said. "We scored a 229."
Several strengths of the Mississippi County Health Department were noted by reviewers. These include:
* An exceptional level of organization;
* The use of a community assessment and the development of a report card as central to determining the leading health problems for the area;
* Thorough analysis of the department's public policies;
* An exemplary continuous quality improvement plan;
* A well-established and user-friendly Web site;
* Successful grant funding for health programs.
Although all health department staff members had to complete trainings, Glaus did most of the work to receive accreditation. "I wrote all of the grants," she said. She also completed a week of classes at St. Louis University, in addition to other trainings and workshops.
In fact, MICH is planning to put Glaus' experience to use. After her health department went through the review, she was asked to serve on their Board of Directors. "I'll approve other agencies when they go through the same process," she said.
For more information about the Mississippi County Health Department and services they provide, visit their Web site at www.misscohealth.com