How many times have we heard it said that it is “better to be proactive than reactive”? This is old advice that has proven itself true through many battles. Another piece of sage advice is that “success breeds success.”

The Mingo County Health Department is putting those two pieces of time-worn wisdom into action. By doing so, the MCHD is also becoming a leader in West Virginia and helping to move Mingo County into the state spotlight.

The Health Department is currently in the process of establishing itself as a Harm Reduction Center. Why, you may ask, is this important? By gaining a Harm Reduction Center status, the MCHD becomes more able to provide a wider range of services for a variety of social and medical challenges. It will provide increased staff training and will allow services to utilize better logistical strategies. On top of this, it will open the door for the health department to pursue quite a bit more grant funding – combined with the Quick Response Team funding the Health Department is looking at an almost half-million dollar booster shot to its budget.

Currently, there are only eight such centers in the entire state. If this designation is achieved quickly, it would put Mingo County in a Top Ten category among the West Virginia health departments. That would be a significant accomplishment for the Southern Coalfields.

The interesting part of this whole thing is that the Mingo County Health Department was recruited by state health officials to seek this designation. Why? Recently, the Mingo County Health Department implemented a Quick Response Team and this QRT program has been so successful that it has garnered state attention.

The health department is already offering 80 percent of the programs and services needed to qualify for the status. It is aggressively trying to achieve the other services required. Two of the more important items on the checklist that must be implemented are agreements with local municipalities and a needle exchange program.

Mingo County Health Administrator Keith Blankenship and QRT Director Kolbie Colburn have already started making the rounds to local town councils. This week, their presentations to the Kermit and Matewan town councils were met with overwhelming approval and support. Both towns welcomed remote services the health department can provide and unanimously approved the necessary resolutions. This is two down and three to go, plus the Mingo County Commission.

The Mingo Messenger encourages the remaining agencies to be as accepting as Kermit and Matewan.

The needle exchange program is where opposition by the public is anticipated. However, it is a misconception that a needle exchange promotes and enables illicit drug use. By supplying clean needles, the Health Departments will help control the spread of infectious diseases among IV drug users as well as the spread among the general population.

In addition, the needle exchange program is open to diabetics. In Mingo County that could be a substantial number. Diabetics are faced with many expenses including over-priced insulin along with testing supplies. In an economically depressed area such as ours, this is just one more way of lessening the burden placed on many of our residents.

By establishing its QRT and providing it the capabilities to achieve its intended purpose, the MCHD has set itself on a proactive path for success. For its forward thinking and services to our area, we commend the Mingo County Health Department and its staff, QRT and board of directors. Congratulations on a job well done.

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