Local health officer discusses importance of local health departments

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FAIRLEA, WV (WVNS) — The year 2020 proved difficult for many people for many reasons, one of those being the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many do not think of the strain health care professionals faced. Bridgett Morrison is the Health Officer for the Greenbrier County Health Department. She said the pandemic exposed underfunding within health departments across the state.

“One of the biggest things is that public health is largely underfunded,” Morrison said. “Over the past five to 10 years, the health departments throughout the state, the budget’s been cut and cut.”

Underfunding is not the only issue health departments face. Morrison said health departments throughout the state are also short staffed.

“In a lot of health departments, people have retired.” Morrison said. “They haven’t had the funding to hire more people. Most health departments started out at the beginning of the pandemic and they were already understaffed and of course under funded.”

The need for public health and local health departments persists. While many spent the last year testing for COVID-19, contact tracing, and administering vaccines, they were also performing their regular duties, like general patient care.

“Outside of COVID, there are so many other things,” Morrison said. “Infectious disease, clean water, vaccines, other vaccines besides COVID. There’s so many other things health departments do.”

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