Edney: Warren County Health Department a ‘super clinic’ for West Mississippi

Published 3:46 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2023

The Warren County Health Department is a “super clinic” for West Mississippi, state health officer Dr. Dan Edney told the Warren County Board of Supervisors Monday.

“We all know Vicksburg is a hub of most everything in West Mississippi, and although we have county health departments in all counties but two, it’s counties like Warren that are flagships. We call them our ‘super clinics,’ where we concentrate our limited clinical resources,” said Edney, who has called Vicksburg home for more than 30 years.

Edney, who worked in private practice before his tenure as the state’s top doctor, addressed the board as part of an effort to highlight what the county has done right, where the supervisors need to lobby state legislators for additional funding and where the county health department could improve.

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“I think y’all have a good understanding of the public health challenges that we have faced at the health department since the big budget cuts in 2017, and were it not for great partners like y’all at the county level, I don’t know what we would do,” he said. “So when you see the Warren County Health Department having to close as we periodically do because of staffing, it’s all related to funding.”

He also said Warren County’s health department is open much more often than Claiborne and Sharkey-Issaquena counties.

In the post-COVID pandemic world, Edney said his goals have shifted from pandemic response to an emphasis on improving public health outcomes in the state. Improving health outcomes is not possible, he said, without the contributions of county governments.

“What many don’t understand, and that includes other boards around the state, is that public health at the county level is primarily a county responsibility,” he said. “We leverage as many federal resources as we can, but we’re limited to what we’re allowed to do. The CDC does not fund county public health. It provides funding to the state, but that’s directed to various programs.

“We direct as much of those resources out to the counties as we can, and we use those federal resources in a legal and ethical way, where we can, to cost-shift some of the overhead from our clinical operations,” he added.

Coming from the private sector, Edney said he has identified great room for improvement in state health clinics in terms of operations, revenue generation and decreasing overhead costs.

Board President Kelle Barfield asked what the supervisors could do to help Edney, and his response was singular: Speak to state legislators.

“I’m not here with a specific ask, but I want to inform y’all where we are and where we’re going,” he said. “Part of it is educating our partners at the Capitol as to what our funding really means. The average legislator, the average appropriations member doesn’t understand. They see one figure for the health department, it’s this big number and they think that they’ve funded part of health. But they didn’t fund the state agency.

“We have opportunities to talk to the local delegation and just remind them of the importance of funding public health in West Mississippi, which really means Warren County,” he added.

Edney explained that statewide, 5 percent of the state’s budget is allocated to the Mississippi State Department of Health, 80 percent of funding is federal and 15 percent is generated internally through clinical operations and fees. In Warren County, the $2 million received in state funding each year breaks down to provide the following services:

  • Violence Prevention/Assistance: $742,208
  • Health Care Facilities: $650,088
  • Tobacco Cessation: $228,413
  • WIC: $89,736
  • Breast and Cervical Cancer: $56,160
  • Rural Health Care: $52,249
  • Cancer: $51,829
  • Genetics: $32,622
  • HIV/STD: $25,966
  • Disease Surveillance and Response: $18,990
  • Maternal Child Health: $9,185
  • Heart Disease: $4,665
  • Special Health Care Needs: $3,333
  • Stroke: $2,951
  • Lead: $1,445
  • Oral Health: $134

Edney also addressed concerns with the current Warren County Health Department building, which he said is “nearing the end” of its useful life. Most recently, a new chiller was purchased for the health department building’s HVAC unit using American Relief Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

“We have an aging building that’s going to be more of a challenge to maintain. … We have some other public safety issues we’re going to have to tend to, but I want to put it on the table that that building is probably not far from the end of its useful life as a clinical environment,” he said. “My philosophy is that the county health department should be just as quality and provide the same level of care that my private clinic was. If you go to the county health department, I want you to be proud of it, I want you to feel comfortable there, and I think you want that for your constituents.”

Although he admitted he would grade the Warren County facility on a harder scale because he is a local resident, Edney said he considers the facility mid-tier when compared to the rest of the state.

“Our mission is to advance the health, safety and well-being of everyone in Mississippi. And that’s a heavy lift,” he said. ” I appreciate (the Warren County Board of Supervisors) making that lift that much easier for us.”