Chautauqua County’s public health staff went through a lot as they helped lead the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, county officials are looking to use federal funds to help them process what they went through and prepare them for the future.
During last week’s county Legislature meeting, lawmakers voted in favor of a resolution to use $200,000 of the $24.6 million received by the county through the American Rescue Plan Act for public health administration.
The resolution was not discussed during the full legislature meeting Wednesday, but was discussed during committee meetings.
“This money was allocated for us to do our after-action planning, including our response and preparation projects, after-action reporting from what we’ve done throughout this pandemic, and then also any required reporting to the state and federal government and our own internal analysis,” explained Christine Schuyler, director of the Health and Human Services Department, during the Audit and Control Committee meeting.
She noted that they are looking to host a full day retreat for the public health staff, so they can look at their strengths and weaknesses for their work in the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s somewhat of a debriefing. As you know, it’s been a stressful couple of years for anyone working in public health,” Schuyler said.
There will also be a separate half-day event for the public nurses to debrief all of the guidance they gave and the feedback given to them from the general public.
Part of the $200,000 will be used to buy jackets for public health staff.
Schuyler noted that the ARPA funds were initially approved last year to rebuild the public health staff. “We don’t normally have the funds to do this sort of training and development, debriefing and also recognition of our staff, so this is an excellent opportunity for us to be able to do that,” she said.
Legislator Terry Niebel questioned the purchase of jackets. “Public Facilities don’t have jackets. Public defenders don’t have jackets. People in the District Attorney’s Office don’t have jackets,” he said.
Schuyler agreed with his point but added that a lot of their staff must go out in public and the jackets will help the public recognize staff. “We’re going out in public like the Emergency Services and the Sheriff’s Office,” which are given jackets for the staff.
In regards to the retreats, Niebel noted other departments have been under a lot stress for the last two years as well, including the Sheriff’s Office and Mental Health Department.
Schuyler agreed. “That would be up to the legislature with the ARPA funding, if that is chosen to be used to help with other departments to go through similar exercises, then I would think that would be appropriate,” she said.
Schuyler noted that no staff or recruitment bonuses are planned with the money. If they don’t use the entire $200,000, any left over money would go back to the ARPA general fund.
The full legislature passed the resolution unanimously.
In other business:
¯ Mary Humphrey of Ripley was appointed to the county Planning Board.
¯ the legislature approved a contract with the town of Hanover for $497,368 for enhanced police protection service in the town, including the village of Silver Creek.