COVID-19 and its variants aren’t a thing of the past yet, but the windfall of money coming to the Gila County Health and Emergency Services Department has come to an end, according to Michael O’Driscoll, director of the department.

O’Driscoll came before the Gila County Board of Supervisors Jan. 4 asking for approval of an additional $622,201 from the Arizona Department of Health Services. The money is to enhance current public health emergency preparedness activities to include workforce development from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2023. New jobs created to deal with COVID-19 in O’Driscoll’s department have remained vacant. The lack of trained applicants forced the closure of one of the county’s special COVID-19 offices in Payson.

The funds from ADHS are for Public Health Emergency Preparedness. The purpose of the Gila County Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program is to prepare the staff and community for any public health emergency. This includes staff training, development of disaster plans, organizing disaster exercises, and procuring emergency supplies and equipment.

O’Driscoll told the board the ADHS grant-related activities fall within the following four strategies:

1) Hire additional public health staff to sustain ongoing COVID-19 response and recovery initiatives;

2) Augment the public health workforce pipeline to improve the ability to sustain COVID-19 recovery initiatives and prepare for future responses;

3) Develop or enhance training programs for new and/or existing public health staff supporting COVID-19 preparedness, response, and recovery efforts; and

4) Keep existing public health staff through various initiatives to ensure continued COVID-19 preparedness, response, and recovery efforts.

He said the funding allows his department to continue to build on the current strategies in place that strengthen the incident management; jurisdictional recovery; bio surveillance; information management; countermeasures; mitigation; and surge management of COVID-19.

“We will continue to scale up laboratory testing and data collection to enable the identification and tracking of COVID-19 cases in the county,” he said.

Gila County Public Health and Emergency Preparedness will develop a brief COVID-19 community intervention implementation plan that will address: slow the transmission of disease; minimize morbidity and mortality; and preserve health care, workforce, infrastructure functions; and minimize social and economic impacts.

O’Driscoll also sought the BOS acceptance of a $750,000 bid from Wowza LLC for consultation services to address the CDC Workforce Development Crisis Emergency Cooperative Agreement grant deliverables. These include: establish, expand, and sustain the public health workforce in Gila County.

The company will also provide Gila County Public Health Division assistance for the completion of grant-related activities over a two-year period that falls within the following four strategies:

1) Hire additional public health staff to sustain ongoing COVID-19 response and recovery initiatives;

2) Augment the public health workforce pipeline to improve the ability to sustain COVID-19 recovery initiatives and prepare for future responses;

3) Develop or enhance training programs for new and/or existing public health staff supporting COVID-19 preparedness, response, and recovery efforts; and

4) Retain existing public health staff through various initiatives to ensure continued COVID-19 preparedness, response, and recovery efforts.

As O’Driscoll left the podium following his presentation to the BOS, he said this would be the last time they would have to deal with allocating COVID-19 money.

It is estimated by county manager James Menlove several millions of dollars have come into Gila County from the federal government, CDC and state government in the effort to address and fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contact the reporter at tmcquerrey@payson.com

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Avoid obscene, hateful, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful.
Be Nice. No name-calling, racism, sexism or any sort of -ism degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article. Real names only!