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Health department tracks food-borne illness
County seek grant to right opioid crisis
health re Barton Health Shelly
Shelly Schneider

A food-borne illness arose suddenly at a local business and sent 27 people the hospital or urgent care on Nov. 9, Barton County Health Department Director Shelly Schneider told the county commission on Monday.

Due to privacy laws, she did not name the business where 53 people were affected by the lunch brought in that day. The illness came rapidly and the response was also rapid, she said.

“It was a very horrible outbreak,” she said. “We had bad food delivered to a business, and violent illness broke out within an hour.”

Nurses at the University of Kansas Health System’s Great Bend Campus and St. Rose Medical Pavilion were alerted as some patients required fluids administered intravenously. Although it was the start of a three-day weekend heading into Veterans Day, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, a food inspector and the County Health Department all responded. “It was well done,” she said. “The incident was handled very efficiently.”

The gastrointestinal illness was traced to toxins produced by the bacteria staphylococcus aureus.

This prompted Schneider to present a lesson on food safety, especially for anyone preparing a Thanksgiving bird. Do not thaw it on a countertop she warned.

“You can cook out bacteria, but not the toxins they leave.”

Grant application

Schneider was also on the agenda to discuss her grant application to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for up to $75,000 to support projects that address the opioid overdose crisis in Kansas. This does not require any kind of match from the county, and was approved by the commission.  

The application will be turned in Tuesday and the health department will know by the end of the month whether it was successful.

While only county health departments may apply for the grant, any money awarded can be used in a partnership. Schneider said she has talked to the Barton County Sheriff, Community Corrections and Juvenile Justice Department on how such a grant might be used. The suggestions were training, education/awareness and “aggressive prevention.”

“Seventy-five thousand dollars is a lot of money but when it comes to fighting the war on drugs it is just a drop in the bucket,” Schneider said.

The war on drugs never ends, she noted. First there was a wave of crack, then heroin, and now cocaine and opioids, she suggested. “What’s the fourth wave? We know it’s going to come — get ready.”

Since the supply of illegal drugs always follows the demand, Schneider said part of their goal is “to reduce the demand in Barton County.”

ACEs training/Trauma-Informed Systems of Care

Also on the agenda, Schneider was set to request $6,000 in funding for Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs)/Trauma-Informed Systems of Care training from Wichita State University. The commission decided not to act on the request for now because if the health department does receive the opioid prevention grant it may be able to fund the training with that. Otherwise, the cost will be shared by the health department, community corrections and juvenile justice.

Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Schartz asked County Administrator Phil Hathcock to weigh in on the best course of action and he noted that if the commission voted to approve the funding now it would have to rescind that later if it wants to use grant money.

“I think we’re all behind it,” Schartz said of the training, even though no action was taken Monday.

WSU has been involved with the education and guidance for the health department’s change in the delivery of care to include ACEs and Trauma-Informed Systems of Care, Schneider explained. The training has been so successful that the three departments hope to use WSU for a “train the trainer” program for up to 25 people.

“It’s changing the way we do health care in Kansas,” Schneider said.

This type of care changes the caregiver’s mindset from “what is wrong with you?” to “what has happened to you?”

Rise Up Central Kansas

Speaking of change, Schneider said a new group, Rise Up Central Kansas, is being formed.

“We’re working to change mindsets; we’re working to change heart-sets,” she said. “We want to see change and start building resilience in Barton County again.”

While that “sounds fuzzy and non-governmental,” Schneider said, “Rise Up is meant to be a place for people to come together — which sounds like another coalition but in fact is very different.” People from local Oxford Houses and those in the Central Kansas Community Corrections, people in Circles of Central Kansas and others who may not have been able to make a positive contribution to Barton County in the past because of poverty or other circumstances, are being invited to join the conversation and make a difference, she said.

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Monday morning:

• Allocated $15,000 in support funding to the Sunflower Diversified Early Childhood Intervention Program. Sunflower Diversified Services Executive Director Jon Prescott noted this amount was approved in the 2018 Barton County Operating Budget.

• Approved the Health Department’s plan to apply for a Kansas Department of Health and Environment opioid overdose crisis response cooperative grant. KDHE invited local health departments to apply for funding, not to exceed $75,000 per county or multi-county partnership, to support projects that address the opioid overdose crisis in Kansas.

• Considered entering the Health Department in Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs)/Trauma Informed Systems of Care training through Wichita State University. Because this could possibly be paid for by the above grant, the commission took no action at this time.

• Heard Barton County Health Department Director Shelly Schneider’s report on a food-borne illness that affected dozens of people at a local business earlier this month.

• Approved an agreement with the engineering firm Kirkham Michael to perform the county’s biennial bridge inspection at a cost of $89 per bridge for a total of $32,930.

• Approved the purchase of a dedicated wireless connection for the Road and Bridge and Noxious Weed departments, at a total cost of $8,557.