Between the United States’ exposure to the Zika virus, the Hexavalent Chromium spill at Light Metals Coloring in Southington, a rampant flu and norovirus season, and the usual day-to-day operations, the Plainville-Southington Regional Health District has had a busy past year.
The PSHD is a co-op between the two towns and is managed by its director, Shane Lockwood, and a public health committee. Both town managers sit on the board. “The towns appoint one person to the board for every 10,000 people in the population, by Connecticut statutes,” Lockwood said.
Not many people know just what happens in the public health sector of government, or what public health even entails. If an outbreak hits or an emergency happens, public health has a responsibility to its constituents to keep them well informed and safe.
Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback said that both towns have benefitted since the two districts became one. “[PSHD] is an example of exactly how regional partnership should work,” he said. “Shane and his staff not only provide public health services but also training for our communities to both residents and businesses.”
“Your doctor is worried about your individual health, but I’m worried about the 62,000 residents of Southington and Plainville,” Lockwood said. Health districts are also responsible for performing the 10 essential public health services, a national requirement.
Any food service establishment, daycare, salon, convalescent home, or school needs regular health inspections, which are conducted by sanitarians in the district. There are four sanitarians that cover every facility across the two towns. In food service alone, there are about 400 establishments between Plainville and Southington.
A sanitarian’s job is to enforce the health code that’s been passed by the State of Connecticut. “They are multi-trained in the health code,” said Lockwood.
The PSHD co-op is also responsible for regulating septic systems and water supply wells, and conducts many health promotion and education programs within the district. Each year, PSHD holds roughly 10 flu shot clinics for the public to utilize, and while getting the vaccine is an individual health component, it also affects the general public.
“By getting a flu shot, you’re able to go out in public, be around people who are sick, and not worry about getting sick,” Lockwood said. As more people get vaccinated, it better protects the community in homes, businesses, schools, etc.
PSHD works closely with the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) composed of individuals that go through extensive training. “During times of emergency, we call upon them to help out,” Lockwood said. “Some health departments have a nursing staff but we don’t, so we utilize them.”
Over the last few years, the public health issues have evolved to be multi-faceted, requiring collaboration from different sectors. Lockwood used the growing opioid crisis as a prime example. “That is such a multi disciplined approach because not one thing caused it,” he said.
PSHD has a small staff for the amount of people they represent. Lockwood said that the biggest change he’s seen recently is the need to work with many departments. “The biggest change over the years is getting us out of one lane and working together with everybody,” he said.
The health district co-op has an office in the Southington Municipal Center and another in Plainville Town Hall.
More information about the department can be found at www.pshd.org.