Health department may add educator to staff

PLYMOUTH — The Marshall County Health Department may soon add another member to their staff.

Wes Burden, health department director, visited the county council meeting Monday to discuss hiring a part-time health educator. Burden said that the state of Indiana is pushing the health department to expand in ways that they don’t have the staff for or that their current staff is not trained on.

Burden said he would like to use monies from the local health department trust account that formerly funded Tobacco-Free Marshall County to pay for the extra position. Tobacco-Free Marshall County, a state funded program, disbanded in June — leaving those funds potentially open for another use.

The part-time hire would work with groups in the community to establish awareness of chronic disease prevention and healthy lifestyles.

Burden told council members that preventing these ailments will save money in the long run.

“If we can prevent these diseases we can save a huge amount of money on treatment,” said Burden.

The planning for the position is only in the beginning stages, said Burden later. The council will consider it further when they have their regularly scheduled meetings to determine the budget for next year.

Burden noted that larger health departments in the area such as in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties do have a health educator on staff. He said that if the position were approved, he would likely contact those health departments and seek their guidance in establishing an educator for Marshall County.

Burden also said that because of budget cuts, he would like to coordinate with other agencies in the community and refer patients to them.

One key task of the health educator would be to build those community partnerships. Another might be working toward getting the health department accredited (basically meeting standards set by the state).

Burden expects that if the position is approved, he would be seeking an individual with a health or science background. Ideally, the individual would have a health education degree.