NURSES WEEK: Public Health focuses on future in community care | Local News

SHERIDAN — Sheridan County Public Health prioritizes prevention, with a focus on education, support and information, banking on the belief that the best spent health care dollars are those that save health care dollars down the road.

“We look at how to keep as many people healthy for as long as possible,” Sheridan County Public Health Nurse Manager Debra Haar said. “And if someone is suffering from a chronic disease or injury, we want to help them get back to health, or to find a new normal so they can function as strongly and as robustly as possible.

“It’s about a quality of life, not just a quantity of life,” she continued.

The Sheridan County Public Health Clinic is open from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday and is located on Main Street across from the courthouse.

“Our staff is professional, knowledgeable, discreet and respectful to our clients and one another, and genuinely happy to serve. Whether you are walking in the door for a specific appointment, or just calling in with a question, you’ll be greeted warmly,” Haar said.

The goal of public health is to reduce people’s risk factors through prevention of disease and injury, promotion of healthy lifestyles, and protection of community health through preparation for emergencies and health threats. Haar said that a lot of prevention is about education, support and information, and that her staff provides services in specific ways. For women and children, Public Health nurses lead a Maternal Child Health program.

“They love working with expectant moms and families to teach all about pregnancy, breastfeeding and what to expect when the baby arrives and beyond,” according to Haar.

Public Health nurses work with families after the baby arrives in myriad ways, determined by the families’ specific needs, teaching “serve and return” connections to facilitate growth and development, including brain development, in the newborns and toddlers. In addition to its one-on-one work, Public Health also does maternal health outreach in the community. This spring, nurses will assist in prenatal classes that will be offered at the YMCA as a part of an interdisciplinary team.

Most challenges facing women and children in Sheridan County relate to access to care, and finding options to meet their needs, Haar said.

“We have quite a few different providers that offer services in town, and we are fairly fortunate in the number of providers that are available,” Haar said. “But sometimes, it is awareness, or knowing what to ask or where to go.”

Public Health can help in that regard, she said.

“We let people know where there is prenatal massage, or postpartum support for depression and anxiety,” she said. “In addition to helping people know what is available, a big piece is helping people know what questions to ask their providers if they are having concerns about something.”

One of the most important things when it comes to prevention is being able to communicate with a provider to let them know what your concerns are, Haar said.

“Your language might not be the same as theirs, because you may be coming at it from a different angle,” she said.

For families, Public Health offers both childhood and adult vaccines for the insured, as well as special programs with reduced prices for the uninsured or underinsured, such as the Vaccines for Children Program and Hepatitis Program. Low-cost vaccines make it possible to protect against disease without breaking the bank, Haar said. Appointments are available on Tuesdays. Public Health also continues to offer all three COVID-19 vaccines at no cost to the clients on Fridays, and can make accommodations for a “car shot” or home visit for patients if needed. Public Health also offers testing and risk reduction counseling services for people who may be at risk for tuberculosis as well as sexually transmitted infections. Many can be treated in-house while others need to referral to a specialist, Haar said. Public Health also provides Ryan White Nurse Case Management services to assist in filling in the gaps not covered by insurance companies for HIV-related services. The clinic also recently collaborated with Sheridan College to meet discreetly with students on campus for similar services.

“Most of our services are available free of charge or low cost,” Haar said.

Haar said in addition to STI treatment and testing, Public Health does walk-in blood pressure checks, serving as a referral service.

“It depends on what you are looking for, but we probably have something for you or know the place to direct you for appropriate care,” she said.

Finally, Haar said in a time when health care workers have faced unprecedented challenges, her staff has been wonderful.

“They have come through amazingly, and they are so strong, compassionate and passionate about what they do,” she said.

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