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Island County Health Services opens new office in Bayview

It’s a tight fit, but Island County Health Services has a new home.

On Thursday, the county opened its new health services center on the second floor of the Bayview Cash Store. Though the square-footage is 25 percent less than the former headquarters on Maxwelton Road in Langley, the county will save about $36,000 annually.

Three primary services will be performed out of the new office, said Melinda Kurtz, the registered nurse who manages the South End office.

“First, the women, children and infants (WIC) program will continue to see to the nutritional needs of South End pregnant mothers and children up to age 5,” she noted. “Second, the county will provide a full range of immunizations for children, travel purposes and routine adult immunizations for flu and tetanus shots.”

Kurtz encouraged people to call her for an appointment at 221-8480.

The third component is the county’s health and assessment function.

“Supervisor Carrie McLachlin will be collecting data on the community’s health and propose interventions based on the results,” Kurtz said. An example would be a physical-activity schedule devised for someone suffering from obesity or diabetes.

By collecting, analyzing and sharing information, county health professionals can better determine where, when and how a threat to the community’s health may be occurring.

Other services include the ability to get copies of birth or death certificates and acquire educational literature on a range of topics such as sexually-transmitted diseases.

County nursing director Suzanne Turner said the move will have some big advantages.

“We’re excited to be closer to the food bank, farmers market and the Bayview School,” she said. “And with good access via Island Transit, we’re happy to be here. My whole emphasis is to be available and accessible to everyone in the community.”

The county’s new landlord is pleased as well. Having a constant stream of folks stopping by for shots or any of the other services should help foot traffic at the Cash Store.

“Goosefoot is very happy to provide them a new home for their family and community services,” said chief operating office Debbie Torget. “These folks provide an essential community resource to our local friends and neighbors, so we couldn't be more pleased in extending the Bayview welcome mat to the health department and its clients.”

Public Health Director Keith Higman was on hand Tuesday to help move in desks, cardboard boxes, coloring books and a miniature table and chairs for the children who visit.

He said the move makes economic sense for the county during difficult economic times.

“The impetus for the move was purely financial,” he said.

“Overall, my department had to shave $825,000 off the budget as a result of reduced income from the county’s financial investment program. This move was one of several we’ve made to cut costs,” he said.

Higman said his department also cut $50,000 from the hydrogeologic survey that monitors groundwater quality and quantity and didn’t fill a vacant position for the Welcome New Baby education and support program.

“The number of workers at the old building had gone from seven to two,” he said. “Since there were only a couple of tenants, we assumed the lion’s share of the maintenance burden such as landscaping, upkeep and janitor services.”

He added that Bayview offers economy of scale while being in an attractive location and, over time, hopes to encourage more walk-in opportunities.

“Making ourselves as efficient as possible while still delivering essential county services is the goal,” he said.

As for the vacated building on Maxwelton Road, negotiations are continuing between the county and South Whidbey Parks & Recreation over a possible deal.

The county wants the park district to assume maintenance duties over certain South End parks and three local lakes — Goss, Lone and Deer — but is offering no funding. The park district wants to take over the county building as its new headquarters, needed because of overcrowding and poor access.

For more information on health services, call 221-8880 or visit www.islandcounty.org.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached 21-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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