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COOK COUNTY CONNECTIONS Public Health and Human Services Department review – Lake Superior News

By: Alison McIntyre, Cook County Director of Public Health and Human Services

COOK COUNTRY, MINNESOTA January 15, 2022 (LSNews) The Cook County Department of Public Health and Human Services has a team of 30 employees who provide a range of mandatory and supportive services to county residents. In addition to our staff, the PHHS department has contracts with local and regional service providers in the areas of child support, addiction testing and treatment, home support services and a variety of public health programs. Our departmental mission is “to support the health, safety and well-being of our community”

2021 was another year of change and uncertainty for the department as we navigated and responded to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the cascading impact on the people and communities we serve.

Staff and program updates

In 2021, seven staff positions were made redundant due to termination or retirement. We welcomed five new employees in 2021 to fill these positions and into newly created positions to respond to emerging and ongoing needs in the community. New positions in 2021 included the addition of a second public health educator and a second child mental health case manager to provide key staffing capacity. The expansion of behavioral health services within the PHHS department included the addition of dedicated case management staff to support people suffering from co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.

The PHHS department also received support in 2021 from part-time staff brought on board to help with pandemic response and a Master of Social Work intern who helped research gaps in healthcare transportation service.

In the areas of economic aid and healthcare, many of the program waivers put in place by the state in the early days of the pandemic have been lifted. With the launch of the MNBenefits online application platform, employees connected more residents to nutrition and cash assistance programs to meet their basic needs.

Pandemic Response

The direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated our work on the public health team in 2021. As we entered the new year 2021, immunization eligibility was restricted to a select group of first responders and other healthcare workers. By the end of the year, over 4,000 residents, 80% of the county’s population, had been vaccinated against COVID-19 thanks to public health collaboration and local health providers at Grand Portage Health Services and Sawtooth Mountain Clinic.

In addition to coordinating and planning immunization events, public health staff continued to provide high quality case investigation and contact tracing services, technical support and safety planning for schools and businesses, and health education and community outreach.

engagement and collaboration

The PHHS Advisory Board and the Cook County Local Mental Health Advisory Council were active in 2021 in making policy, service and funding recommendations, conducting outreach, and fostering connections between regional service organizations. Both advisory boards welcomed new members from community members and service providers in 2021 thanks to continued outreach and recruitment.

Throughout 2021, the Local Mental Health Advisory Council worked to develop a mission and vision to guide our work. The adopted mission of the Cook County Local Mental Health Advisory Council is to remove barriers and increase access to mental health resources for all community members. Council members seek to improve the work of the Department of Public Health and Human Services, advise the Cook County Commissioners, and improve the mental health system and community services. Our vision is for the Cook County Local Mental Health Advisory Council to provide communities, including the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and Cook County, where mental health is understood, valued and supported.

In 2021, the Public Health and Human Services Advisory Board continued to provide a forum for local health and social care providers and community members to discuss response to the ongoing public health emergency and initiatives to advance the goals of Cook County’s 2017-2022 Community Health Program to discuss improvement plan. Advisory Board members served on a subcommittee to make funding recommendations for community nonprofits that applied for the 2022 Public Health Fund. Total grant applications were approximately $225,000, far exceeding the $137,700 budgeted for 2022. The subcommittee made recommendations to the PHHS Division and Board of Directors to adjust the timeline for the call for proposals to better promote community-based funding.

Learn more about the PHHS Division at the PHHS Board Meeting on January 18 at 8:30 am in the Cook County Commissioners Room. The meeting can be streamed live on Cook County’s website at www.co.cook.mn.us. You can also visit our website at www.cookcountyphhs.org, contact us by email at [email protected] or find us on Facebook @CookCountyPHHS or Instagram @cook_county_phhs to learn more about our work in support of health, safety and wellbeing in Cook County. For the latest information on COVID-19 in Cook County, visit the COVID-19 Response Center’s comprehensive website at www.cookcountycovid19.org

By: Alison McIntyre, Cook County Director of Public Health and Human Services
Photo by Laura Muus

County Connections is a column for current affairs and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting the community through quality public service

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About Cook County, Minnesota

Cook Country Minnesota Lake Superior News

Located at the tip of Minnesota’s Arrowhead region in the remote northeastern part of the state, Cook County stretches from the shores of Lake Superior to the US-Canada border. By land, it borders Ontario, Canada to the north and Lake County, MN to the west. The highest point in Minnesota, Eagle Mountain, is 2,301 feet and the highest lake, total area, is 3,339.72 square miles

Cook County is home to three national protected areas:
Grand Portage National Monument
Superior National Forest
Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area

Cook County includes:
Grand Marais Lutsen Mountains
Gunflint Trail Superior hiking trail
Great stretcher

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