(Photos by Scott Welton, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- Earlier this month the Mississippi County Health Department earned designation as one of only 12 accredited health departments in the state.
"It's the good housekeeping seal of approval when a health department is accredited," said Kathleen Wojciehowski, director of the Missouri Institute for Community Health.
A local public health agency may seek one of three types of accreditation: primary, advanced, and comprehensive. Each type is measured by a different quantity of standards.
"It's something you don't do overnight. It took us about a year of planning and to get through all documentation," said Melanie Glaus, director of Mississippi County Health Department.
The accreditation process is very involved, Glaus said. Mississippi County Health Department met 215 standards in addition to meeting employee credential standards such as employees having bachelor's or master's degrees, she said.
"Once we got through with standards, we applied for accreditation," Glaus said.
Three reviewers from Kansas City and St. Louis visited the health department to make sure staff received credentials and met those standards, Glaus said.
Only 12 of the state's 115 health departments are accredited, and Mississippi County earned the state's first perfect score in the primary accreditation category.
"You really have to pay attention to hit 100 percent and you have to be tuned into what your community needs are and get outside your walls. You can't just stay inside your health department. You have to be out out there in the community, and that's what Mississippi County has done," Wojciehowski said.
Besides Butler County, Mississippi County is the only accredited health department within the surrounding region.
Glaus said she attributes the health department's accreditation to a wonderful workforce.
"We have standards that we work toward and set goals, and we achieved them all," Glaus said.
Receiving accreditation means the department "goes above and beyond the call of duty," Glaus said.
"We have a workforce that can take care of the public and a standard of care. When someone is accredited, it means they follow the rules and regulations and we can provide a good service to the community," Glaus said.
Applying for accreditation is costly, Glaus said.
"But it proves, that you are excellent at what you do," she said.
Earning accreditation doesn't include a cash award, but the acknowledgment of accreditation does help when applying for grants or state contracts, Glaus said.
Wojciehowski noted Missouri has the first voluntary health department accreditation system in the country. The national program is just being developed now.
"So people from all over country come to Missouri to study what we have done for accreditation," Wojciehowski said. "It is an incredible achievement for a health department to be accredited by a voluntary agency."
Wojciehowski commended Glaus, who also serves on the Board of Directors for Missouri Institute for Community Health.
"Melanie also has done some incredible work in the state on accreditation," Wojciehowski said. "She has been very active in the state and partnering with other states so she and her staff are real leaders."