By Jessie Wagoner
The McPherson County Health Department has garnered a good deal of attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. The staff at the health department has been busy tracking COVID-19 in the community, providing public health updates and working with government officials to ensure health needs are met. However, they still have their regular workload to maintain and services to offer all community members, not just those impacted by COVID-19.
Shalei Shea, director of the McPherson County Health Department, says a normal day, before COVID-19, included various services being provided. Vaccinations, WIC appointments and family planning services kept staff occupied. Now, with the addition of COVID-19, they are seeing an increased need in all areas.
“It is so important for individuals and families to have access to our services and support during this pandemic,” Shea said. “There are so many side-effects or ripples that come from a global pandemic. We’ve seen an increase locally in service needs. For instance, we’ve seen an increase in WIC clientele and immunizations. Our immunization need has gone up just because our local providers are seeing sick COVID-19 patients, and they don’t want to expose their otherwise healthy patients for their immunizations.”
To facilitate meeting the increased needs the health department continues to operate daily by appointment. Shea says appointments are spaced so they can properly sanitize the exam rooms and take other personal protective measures. They are encouraging people to wear a mask when attending appointments. Vaccines are given as needed, and Shea says they are working patients in as quickly as possible.
Shea says they are also seeing an increased need in WIC services for women and children. WIC benefits are available for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers up to the child’s first birthday, non-breastfeeding mothers up to six months after birth and infants and children under five years old.
WIC benefits include formula, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and cereals. The benefits are meant to be supplemental, so it doesn’t provide all the groceries you need to feed your family, but it is a great help to families. WIC applications can currently be processed by phone. Eligibility requirements follow 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and include anyone who qualifies for KanCare. Shea says most people qualify for WIC and don’t realize it.
All WIC participants meet with a registered nurse or a registered dietician to discuss milestone, healthy behaviors and developmental goals. The personal consultations can provide parents with additional supports and information as they navigate parenting small children.
“Our goal is to support women, infants and children any way possible,” Shea said. “We can often refer WIC clients to other services in the community that will support them in ways the program cannot.”
Family planning services continue to be offered at the health department. The family planning program provides reproductive health services for girls and women in the county. The services include yearly well-woman’s exams, birth control planning and prescription, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, and any other reproductive health needs. Family planning operates on a sliding fee scale that is based off of household incomes, so if someone doesn’t have insurance, they can still get services at an affordable price.
“We often have patients that come to our community for college, and they need continuation of care so they come to us for services,” Shea said. “There isn’t an age limit on our services, and we provide them confidentially. It’s super easy to get started on the program. Just give us a call, and we’ll set you up for your first appointment where you just talk with one of our nurses and we address any of your concerns or problems, then can issue birth control if that’s something you want. You’ll come in for a second appointment and meet our physician’s assistant for the physical exam if needed.”
To schedule an appointment for any of the services mentioned, call 620-241-1753.