The Highland County Board of Commissioners declared a 30-day state of emergency at its weekly meeting Wednesday. Board president Jeff Duncan said that the state of emergency gives the county some priority if there are any funds or a need for additional COVID-19 supplies.
Duncan said that the people present at the Wednesday morning meeting, Tim Perry from Highland District Hospital; Jared Warner, the Highland County Health commissioner; Dave Bushelman, director of the Highland County Emergency Management Association; and Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District Chief Dave Manning, asked the commissioners to declare a health emergency in the county. He also said he hoped that 30 days from now there would be some improvement and if there’s anything available from the state, the declaration would give the county better access.
Commissioner David Daniels said that one of the main concerns of the COVID-19 situation was their system’s capacity to deal with the cases. He said Highland District Hospital has 25 beds, so when 25 people are sick, the hospital is at capacity.
Warner said that when he first sat in the commissioners office in March of 2020, they talked about how one of the biggest concerns for the county was the health care system’s capacity.
He said the system is designed to run “pretty close to full all the time on a regular basis” which means that it wouldn’t take a lot to overwhelm the system. He also said that the federal government considers the county a “health care shortage area” and that the county doesn’t have the local resources available like bigger cities do.
Warner said he doesn’t believe that the county has fully peaked yet due to the latest COVID-19 surge. He said he thinks the county has seen a slowdown in its rate of increase, but that he doesn’t think it’s gotten to the top of the curve yet.
Perry said the hospital has seen an influx of COVID-19 patients. As an example, he said it had 24 patients on the floor Wednesday and 13 of them had COVID. He said the hospital has had to cancel a lot of the elective surgeries as well as shut down colonoscopies this week. He said that’s because of staff shortages and that they had to “float” all the staff to take care of the incoming emergencies.
Perry said that the community needs to be patient and understanding if they come in and to know that the workers are doing the best they can with the staff they have.
In other news, the board of commissioners proclaimed Jan. 19, 2022, as Highland County Suicide Awareness Day.
Tara Campbell, committee chair of Highland County Suicide Prevention Coalition, thanked the commissioners for the proclamation and encourages all county residents to reach out for help if they have thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
“So, if you’re in Highland County, we have had an increase in suicide over the past few years and the goal of the coalition is to be able to prevent those suicides from children all the way up to the elders in the community so we just encourage the citizens of Highland County to look out for each other, reach out for help, reach out to our local treatment facilities and again, we thank you for proclaiming today Suicide Prevention Awareness Day in Highland County,” Campbell said.
Campbell said the coalition meets the second Thursday of every month at 10 a.m., currently at the Highland District Hospital cafeteria. She said there are many different text or suicide hotlines. She said the text line is 741-741 and that there’s also a national hotline. She said there’s an online chat where people can go for help.
Campbell said there are local treatment facilities where people can go for mental health treatment such as Family Recovery Services (FRS) or the Scioto Paint Valley Mental Health Center. She said there are also suicide prevention trainings and that it’s important because it helps teach people how to identify when someone might be showing signs and how to respond and refer those people or to the help they need.
Britton said that the sheriff’s office requested new patrol vehicles and that the commissioners budgeted for two new patrol vehicles. The new vehicles would replace two of the older ones that had over 165,000 to 170,000 miles, respectively, on them. He also said that sheriff Donny Barrera was already in the process of working to get quotes for the vehicles. The commissioners approved the purchase of these vehicles.
Duncan said the commissioners were approached by the Greenfield Exempted Village School District because it was having issues with its sanitary sewer system and was looking for guidance and help.
Daniels said the issue probably came from years ago when the Rocky Fork Lake area sewer system was installed and the school system chose to not tie in to the lake area system. He said there’s a possibility of it coming out of the school and up U.S. Route 50 to S.R. 753, and for S.R. 753 to tie into the mainline at S.R. 753 and North Shore Drive. He said the conversations have continued to evolve as their engineer looked at the engineering and what it would take to get into the mechanical systems that would need to be put in.
In other news, Britton said that the county received $250,000 from the state’s capital budget so it could move forward with a project to tear down the old Buford school as well as redo the village park. He said this project is currently in the works. He said the commissioners got a proposal from McCarty Engineering that they would review.
Duncan said that the board of commissioners is working on designating a member for the Palomino Solar Project and that the deadline for that is sometime in April.
He also said sales tax numbers were once again up from the same time a year ago, with the numbers at $708,472 received from November 2021 compared to $621,018 from the prior year.
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.