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Holt: New health department needed

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Members of the county General Operations Committee on Monday night heard more information on the need for a larger health department in Hendersonville.

The county's current facility on New Shackle Island Road was built in 1978 and officials say the need for services has outgrown what the county facility can offer. They hope to use a $500,000 state grant to get the ball rolling.

"It's the oldest, smallest and most antiquated health department in the county," said Anthony Holt, county executive, adding that many residents tend the think the health department is only used by those who are economically disadvantaged, but that isn't the case, he said.

According to Hal Hendricks, director of the Sumner County Health Department, the 3,200 square foot facility in Hendersonville was built in the late 80s when the city's population was around 23,000 people. Today there are an estimated 60,000 residents in the city and by those numbers; Hendricks said the city should have at least a 15,000 square foot facility to serve residents. Gallatin currently has a 22,000 square foot facility.

"One in every five residents uses (the health department) at least once a year - we are fairly busy, and we would love to be able to expand those operations there," Hendricks said." I've got staff working without offices there."

Both Gallatin and Portland have had newer facilities built for their county health departments in recent years. Holt said with budget talks starting later this month, he plans to start introducing the idea for a new Hendersonville facility, which he estimates would cost around $3 million, not including land purchase.

"The majority of the staff is funded through the state - we don't have to worry about funding staff, we just need to provide a facility for them," Holt said.

According to a 2016 annual health services report, the three Sumner County health departments offered a total of 34,678 program services last year. The breakdown of those includes children's health - 2,796; women's health - 5,529; WIC-nutrition services - 12,712; family planning - 1,883; men's health - 2,576; vital records (birth/death certificates) - 4,224; Tuberculosis control - 559; breastfeeding education - 1,856; and STD control - 2,543.

The county health departments also sponsor a variety of community events and programs including Walk across Sumner - a month-ling walking program; tobacco prevention targeting underage smoking and pregnant women and second hand smoke; and community needs assessments and community health improvement planning.

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